Union Members Vote Down Contract At Federal Nuclear Facilities
OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) _ About 4,100 production and maintenance employees at a federal nuclear weapons plant and laboratory voted Sunday to reject a contract package, shutting down production at one of the facilities, company officials said.
Picket lines went up at the Department of Energy installations Saturday after delegates from 17 unions represented by the Atomic Trades and Labor Council voted 23-20 to reject the offer.
The strike prompted the shutdown of production at the Y-12 plant and has forced technicians to assume duties of striking employees at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said Carol Grametbauer, a spokeswoman for Martin Marietta Energy Systems Inc., which operates the two facilities.
Ms. Grametbauer originally said the strike shut down the 7,200-employee Y- 12 plant but later clarified that while production was halted by the 3,200 striking workers, the remaining 4,000 employees would still report for work.
The vote was 1,479-1,454 against the package, said Bob Keil, ATLC president.
There were no immediate plans to resume negotiations through a federal mediator, Ms. Grametbauer said. The original contract expired Friday afternoon, but both sides agreed to extend it 24 hours at the urging of federal mediators.
The shutdown of the Y-12 plant, which produces parts for nuclear weapons, will not immediately affect the country’s nuclear weapons production, she said.
″It’s one of the key plants. However, the U.S. weapons production complex has the flexibility to meet its needs in the near future,″ she said.
The spokeswoman said officials built up inventories of weapons parts in anticipation of the strike, but she did not know how long the supplies would last.
About 3,200 of the striking workers are employees of the Y-12 plant. About 5,000 people work at the laboratory, where about 900 are striking union members, Ms. Grametbauer said.
The bargaining committee of the ATLC approved the contract shortly before negotiations ended Saturday, but the delegate body of 43 union members voted later to reject it, said Bruce Swain, director of employee relations for Martin Marietta.
Bob Keil, president of the ATLC, said there was a ″lot of animosity″ among some unions regarding Martin Marietta’s proposal to make craft classifications more flexible, enabling workers to help on jobs outside their designated job title.
Company officials said they wanted to increase productivity at the plants by consolidating some of the job classifications.
The company and union had been negotiating a new contract since April, when a three-year contract expired.
Among the company’s offers were $1,000 bonus payments within the next week in lieu of a pay raise. Some of the workers affected by job-title consolidations would receive additional raises.
In the second year, workers would receive $750 lump-sum payments, and the third year would bring a 3 percent raise.