Defying federal law providing such rights, USW Local 7-669 claims Honeywell blocked participation by a union representative in an active Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspection at the company’s Metropolis plant on Monday. As a result, the union will seek action against Honeywell.
According to a press release issued Monday from Union President Stephen Lech, a complaint against the NRC was filed with the Office of the Inspector General.
In the news release, Lech alleges he was chosen by the union to accompany the NRC inspection team and the company refused to allow him to be present. Lech said federal law gives the union the absolute right to designate a “walk-around” representative.
Lech said the NRC proceeded with the inspection with an alternate employee representative, citing that they do not have the authority to enforce the federal code that provides this right to the workers. The union’s news release states the NRC refused to take action on the issue, questioning whether Lech was actually a representative of the workers.
USW 7-669 says Monday’s violation of a law is identical to the February 2011 incident when Honeywell refused to allow a walk-around representative to accompany OSHA inspectors in the facility.
The result was an order by a federal judge confirming the union’s rights. Honeywell defied the same order and would not comply until a federal warrant was subsequently issued. With the assistance of the walk-around representative, 17 violations were uncovered, and Honeywell received penalties in the amount of $119,000.
“The presence of our union’s top elected official is vital to the integrity of the inspection process.” said Lech. “NRC inspections are announced ahead of time and focus on specific areas. Management at this facility has proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to bring up any other issues that might get them cited. That’s why Congress wrote union walk-around rights into the law. Why isn’t the NRC taking the concerns of our workers seriously? It’s an uneasy feeling knowing that a federal agency with as much responsibility as they are trusted with do not feel they have an obligation to enforce federal law.”
According to Honeywell Spokesperson Peter Dalpe, the NRC conducts regular, routine inspections of the facility throughout the year. Each inspection - there are 14 modules - focuses on a different area. “At most of these inspections, there is a ‘entrance’ and ‘exit’ meeting,” explained Dalpe.
Dalpe said Honeywell was following the NRC regulations, which govern who can attend these meetings. Those rules, require that the representative be an active employee. “A union representative was invited and a union representative attended the meeting today [Monday],” said Dalpe.
“The NRC requires any participants in its routine pre- and post-inspection meetings to be currently employed at the facility so they have current knowledge of licensed activities and can assist in the NRC inspection process. Honeywell always invites the union to send a representative to these meetings, and the company did so today. The union president is not a current employee and not eligible to attend today’s meeting,” said Dalpe.
Dalpe explained the reason for having a current employee at these meetings is that they are most familiar with Honeywell’s operations, so they can offer the best insight to inspectors. “The union president has not worked at the plant for nearly a year,” added Dalpe.
According to Dalpe, the NRC has indicated it agrees with the company’s position and informed Lech of their position Monday morning. “Since the beginning of 2013, the union has sent a representative to 15 NRC meetings and has chosen not to on 10 occasions. The union did have a representative at today’s meeting,” said Dalpe.
“The union has chosen not to send representatives to 10 of the 25 such meetings that have been held this year, even though we have invited them to send a current employee as a representative. It is difficult for the union to claim their presence is vital if they chose not to send representatives to 40 percent of such meetings this year,” said Dalpe.
According to Dalpe, as far as the OSHA inspection that happen during the past work stoppage, “This is completely different situation. But in that instance, as with this one, the company did allow a union employee with specific knowledge about the operations to attend that inspection.”
Roger Hannah, senior public affairs officer for the NRC in Atlanta said NRC regulations (10CFR19.14) have provisions for worker representatives to accompany NRC inspectors, but if the representative of the workers is not an employee, the licensee must agree. “Honeywell’s position was not to allow the USW local president to accompany NRC inspectors on-site, but to allow a current union employee to accompany our inspector,” explained Hannah.
“Yesterday, we documented the union’s concerns and will be reviewing them,” said Hannah, who said the on-site union representative was planning to be with the inspector on the inspection held Tuesday at Honeywell’s Metropolis plant. “We have also arranged a phone call with the USW local president to document any additional concerns he may have,” said Hannah.