Contract negotiations between Honeywell Inc. and United Steel Workers Local 7-669 resumed Monday with both sides trying to reach a new labor agreement at the uranium conversion facility as reports surfaced over the weekend that there were two releases of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) at the Metropolis Works Plant.
The Metropolis Planet learned there were two releases on Friday, and Honeywell Spokesman Peter Dalpe confirmed on Sunday morning that the plant did experience two very small leaks of UF6 during separate maintenance activities. “Unfortunately, the union appears to be raising exaggerated claims about the safety of the plant to further its bargaining position,” said Dalpe, in a company statement.
“In regard to the two UF6 releases that occurred at the facility Friday, the union made no reference as to how the response was handled by personnel at the plant. The union did recognize, however, that the company has made multiple claims about being upfront in their negotiations and operations, sending information to the public and media at every turn, yet chose to keep two releases of uranium hexafluoride quiet,” said USW Spokesman John Paul Smith, in a union statement on Sunday.
According to Dalpe, in both cases, the amount released was small, contained in the immediate area and quickly stopped. “There were no injuries. All plant emergency procedures were followed and the incidents were reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC),” said Dalpe, who emphasized it is important to note the NRC completed a routine inspection of the safety operations of the plant last week and found no violations or other findings.
On Monday, the parties discussed both sides’ proposals, article by article, in an effort to better understand the issues contested. “The union is making all efforts to negotiate the differences with Honeywell and hopes that the company will make an effort to better understand the issues the facility faces and work with the union to solve the problems. The company’s current proposal clearly accentuates their inability to manage the facility,” said Smith.
“We are working hard to get an agreement through bargaining with the company. We need Honeywell to do the same,” said Mike Millsap, USW District 7 Director who is a member of the local’s negotiating committee for the negotiations.
According to Smith, there were further discussions regarding healthcare and sub-contracting, the main sticking points during the negotiations, but the company has been unwilling to compromise. The union has remained committed to bargaining for an agreement that is fair to the membership.
According to a Honeywell company statement, the company and the union negotiators had frank discussions Monday and both sides further clarified their positions on the key issues of subcontracting and healthcare.
“The company again presented additional details on the company’s consumer-driven healthcare offering, which the union had agreed to adopt starting in 2015 under the terms of the previous contract. The company looks forward to continuing to bargain in good faith when negotiations resume tomorrow and is committed to a full week of bargaining, if needed,” said Honeywell Spokesman Peter Dalpe Monday evening.
Honeywell locked out USW union workers earlier in the month when both sides failed to reach an agreement by midnight on Aug. 1. As of right now, bargaining is scheduled to continue for the remainder of the week.
On Sunday, Dalpe said out the union talks about safety, but has apparently not ceased some picket misconduct that caused the company to send a letter to union leadership Aug. 13. One day after the letter was sent, Dalpe said the tire of another vehicle entering the plant was found to have been damaged by a nail.
“Honeywell calls on the union to take steps to stop the dangerous practice of spreading nails on the driveway, which endangers drivers and the general public,” said Dalpe.
Smith said it is obvious the company continues a “smear campaign” regarding picket line activity. “It is now apparent that Honeywell believes that every nail in every tire that is in their plant must have been put there by union members, despite having no evidence that any member is responsible for any damage,” said Smith, adding, “The company is attempting to shift focus away from their unreasonable bargaining positions in search of public favor.”