PLYMOUTH (CBS) – Hundreds of picketers lined up outside the state’s only nuclear power plant after a disagreement with their employer Wednesday.
The Utility Workers Union of America says Entergy Corporation, the company that operates Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, isn’t offering a fair deal.
Entergy and UWUA Local 369 have been in talks for a couple of months and couldn’t come to an agreement to prolong their contract.
The four-year deal expired at midnight Wednesday.
“”They [the union] reserve the right to walk off the job at any time, without any notice, and leave the nuclear power plant critically understaffed and in violation of the plant’s operating license. This disregard for public safety is unacceptable. Accordingly, the company’s contingency plan is being implemented,” Entergy said in a statement emailed to WBZ-TV.
The company escorted workers off the property after the contract expired.
Union workers immediately lined up to protest the lockout, claiming Entergy is putting their bottom line over public safety.
“It’s unconscionable. We’re not in the middle of the Mojave Desert here. We’re in the middle of a neighborhood,” said Dan Hurley, President, UWUA Local 369.
Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is 40-years-old but was just approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate for another 20 years.
The union claims that deal is worth $1 million per day.
Replacement workers were brought in Wednesday morning from Entergy’s 10 other plants around the country.
The union claims those workers are mostly managers who don’t know the nuances of the Pilgrim plant.
“Right now they have people in there that really just don’t know what they’re doing. They have no concern for the surrounding towns and everybody’s safety,” said 39-year-employee Kevin Yetman.
Entergy disputes that the replacement workers aren’t as capable, saying they have met the same standards as Pilgrim employees.
UWUA Local 369 makes up about 240 of the plant’s 650 workers.
They are asking Entergy to reduce its expectations of employee funded health care. The union says Entergy wants employees to double their contributions to health insurance costs.
Entergy’s representative says she is unaware of any plans to negotiate the issue further.
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