PORT GIBSON, Miss. (AP) — Entergy Corp. and the union security guards that it locked out of the Grand Gulf nuclear plant are squabbling over mandatory overtime.
Leaders of the United Government Security Officers of America said in a statement Thursday that guards are being forced to work too much overtime at Mississippi's only nuclear plant.
"The issues that Entergy refuses to address are related to poor morale and over-working, which leads to fatigue and a threat of security," the union said. It wants Entergy to hire more guards and provide negotiated vacation time.
Union leaders said Entergy is abusing a process whereby the company submits waivers to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow guards to work more hours than federal rules normally permit.
Entergy Nuclear, the division which operates Grand Gulf and other atomic plants, denied Friday that it's abusing such waivers.
"All Entergy Nuclear plants operate in strict compliance with federal fitness for duty programs and the nuclear fatigue rule, established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to ensure employees are ready to perform their duties and do not work excessive overtime," spokesman Mike Bowling said in a statement. "These regulations have been strictly followed at Grand Gulf.
Entergy locked out union members at 12:01 a.m. Monday, after talks failed on a new contract. A previous three-year contract had been extended 30 days to continue negotiations, the Colorado-based union said.
Thursday, members of the union's Local 36 picketed the plant, which is in a rural area southwest of Jackson. Entergy said it had to lock the employees out because they would have been working without a contract and could have left their post at any time. Entergy replaced the union members with "experienced" workers from Grand Gulf and from other Entergy nuclear plants as well as professional security firms.
Both sides say they want to resume talks.
In June, 242 union workers at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth, Mass., were locked out when their contract expired, later rejecting an Entergy contract offer. The company and workers signed a new contract that ended the lockout after four weeks. A contract with a separate group of union workers at the Massachusetts plant expires later this month, with more labor unrest possible.