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November 27. 2013 5:42PM

No agreement reached in Seabrook Station labor talks

CONCORD — Negotiators for the Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, and Seabrook Station management failed to reach an agreement Wednesday on a new contract and avert a threatened lockout Monday.

The two sides agreed to a cooling off period following a meeting with a federal mediator and will meet again Sunday at 10 a.m., according to Bob Mahoney, regional senior national representative for the Utility Workers of America, AFL-CIO.

The two sides have been negotiating since September over a new contract to replace the current five-year agreement that is set to expire at midnight Monday.

Union officials have said previous contracts have been renewed without any labor unrest.

Plant owner, NextEra Energy of Juno, Fla., says the plant would continue operating with supervisory and non-union personnel if there is a lockout, adding the situation would pose no public safety risk.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been monitoring the situation, and an official said Wednesday it has reviewed the plant’s contingency plans in the event of a lockout.

Region I spokesman Neil Sheehan said the review evaluated the plans’ adequacy, which covers areas such as staffing. No issues or concerns have been identified to date, he said.

“The NRC would closely monitor operations during a strike to ensure that the plant continues to operate safely and in accordance with federal regulations,” said Sheehan. “If a strike occurs, inspectors from the NRC Region I Office would supplement our two resident inspectors assigned to the plant on a full-time basis to provide increased oversight. This enhanced oversight would include 24-hour-a-day coverage for at least the first 48 hours of a walkout and enhanced coverage for the duration of a strike.”

The situation at Seabrook has the attention of Gov. Maggie Hassan, who lives in nearby Exeter.

“Governor Hassan’s focus is on maintaining safety measures and protocols at Seabrook Station in order to ensure public safety. Our office has been in close communication with Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials about contingency plans if a contract agreement is not reached by next week, and they are confident that the appropriate steps are being taken,” said Marc Goldberg, Gov. Hassan’s communications director. “The NRC will also have monitors in place 24/7 if contingency plans are required. The Governor encourages all parties to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.”

Negotiators have been at odds over wages and a company proposal to eliminate a special classification for firefighter technician/EMT. Union officials say the company has offered 2 percent raises each year in a three-year contract, while the union’s latest offer was for 2.7 percent.

The main sticking point, according to management and labor, has been a management proposal to end premium pay for weekend work. Instead, workers would have rotating shifts that include weekend coverage at regular pay.

He said the contingency plan would have supervisors run the plant for 96 straight hours, bringing in cots for sleeping. He added that the additional training given supervisors in the event of a lockout was inadequate.

“We could have 226 members locked out if the company follows through with its threat,” Mahoney said. “The majority of those workers participate in the (plant’s) evacuation plan. If anything goes wrong, the public safety is in jeopardy again.”

Plant spokesman Alan Griffin said the union’s claims are unfounded.

The company prepares for this kind of event and provided additional training so operations run smoothly, he said.

The UWUA Local 555 represents 226 workers who specialize in mechanical and electrical positions at the power plant, including instrumentation, calibration and control room operators.

The plant employs about 670 overall, the balance of which are not unionized, including management, planners and schedulers.

grayno@unionleader.com


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