Aug 25 A lockout of about 135 union employees at
a Honeywell International Inc uranium conversion plant
in Illinois is poised to extend past a month as the two sides
remain apart on several issues.
Production and maintenance employees at the Metropolis,
Illinois, plant who are members of United Steelworkers Local
7-669 have been locked out since the start of August, after a
three-year contract expired. Talks are not expected to resume
this week while the company reviews the union's latest proposal,
said union spokesman John Paul Smith.
"When it comes down to it, we are no closer to an agreement
than we were on Aug. 1," Smith said.
Honeywell said it is committed to bargaining in good faith,
but is also concerned about the plant's long-term
The plant accrued $300 million in operating losses over the
past 10 years and is "just now starting to break even," a
company spokesman said. The diverse manufacturer, whose products
also include climate control systems and aviation components,
posted $39.1 billion in revenue last year.
"The company believes that with the right investments and
the right labor contract, the plant will become and remain
profitable," spokesman Peter Dalpe said in an emailed statement.
Honeywell's Metropolis plant is the only U.S. facility that
converts uranium oxide into to uranium hexafluoride, which is
then enriched to be used as fuel in nuclear power plants.
Honeywell has continued to operate the plant after the
lockout, with the remaining roughly 135 plant employees who are
non-union, as well as with contingent workers.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has taken more precautions
since the lockout began, including continuously staffing the
plant during the first 72 hours and increasing safety
inspections to once a week from the typical schedule of about
once a month.
No "significant issues" have been found, but the NRC will
continue the stepped-up inspection schedule until the work
stoppage is resolved or the agency is satisfied the plant can
operate long-term without any issues, said NRC spokesman Roger
"We're satisfied they have the appropriate training, but we
want to make sure those people can perform those functions for
an extended period of time without any issues," Hannah said.
Honeywell also locked out workers for 14 months between 2010
and 2011 during a contract dispute. Since then, the number of
union workers has dropped from 228 to its current level.
The two sides remain apart on use of subcontractors, pay,
healthcare benefits and work rules including grievance
procedures, Smith said.
Honeywell also closed the plant for a year starting in
mid-2012 to make more than $40 million worth of safety upgrades
required by the NRC in the wake of the disaster at Japan's
Fukushima nuclear plant. Some employees were let go during that
time, but Honeywell spokesman Dalpe said the investment
preserved jobs "that would have been lost otherwise."
(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Alwyn Scott and Lisa