Monitoring Labor Negotiations Is Part of the Regulator’s Job

The NRC’s Region I Office has been monitoring contract negotiations for some unionized workers at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant. The Plymouth, Mass., plant is operated by Entergy Nuclear Operations. The United Workers Union of America Local 369 represents members of the maintenance, radiation protection, chemistry, and operations organizations. The two sides have been unable to reach a contract agreement and Entergy is using replacement workers to staff union positions throughout the plant.

This isn’t the first contract negotiations the region, or agency, has tracked. Most have settled before contract expiration, but workers at Nine Mile Point in Scriba, N.Y., took to the picket lines last summer for several week. And, unionized workers at Oyster Creek in Forked River, N.J. struck for nearly three months in 2003.

While job actions don’t happen that frequently, the NRC is prepared when they do. In advance of the contract expiration, the company that operates the plant develops a contingency plan to allow it to continue operating in the event of a strike. The NRC Resident Inspectors assigned to the site review the plans and discuss the actions being taken to prepare for a strike, should it occur.

The NRC doesn’t involve itself in contract negotiations. We ensure that the minimum requirements of the facility’s license and technical specifications are maintained at all times. We also review the qualifications of replacement workers to ensure the continued safe operation of the facility.

During the final hours of a contract, the two NRC Resident Inspectors at the site are supplemented by additional inspectors from the Regional Office. Should there be a strike, we have round-the-clock control room coverage by NRC inspectors for the first 48 hours and continued additional site coverage for at least the first two weeks.

Until a settlement is reached, we’ll ensure the plant continues to be operated safely.

Diane Screnci
Senior Public Affairs Officer, Region I
 
Update: On Sunday, July 8, members of the United Workers Union of America Local 369 at Pilgrim voted to ratify a new four-year contract. Union workers resumed work at the site beginning Monday morning, July 9. Region I inspectors will observe Entergy’s reintegration plan to ensure Pilgrim continues to meet its regulatory requirements.