Contract talks between representatives of the parent company of New York’s Indian Point nuclear plant and union officials are set to resume Tuesday. The talks broke down just before dawn Saturday. Union members have been calling for job retention beyond the planned closure of the plant by 2021.
Local 1-2 Utility Workers were set to strike if a new contract were not reached by midnight, January 17th. Yet with some progress at the negotiating table, talks have continued. Spokesman Jerry Nappi says Indian Point parent Entergy continues to bargain in good faith with the union leadership and has offered the following.
“Entergy has offered wage increases of more than 12 percent, if you look at it on a compounded basis over the next four years, which demonstrates that we do appreciate what the workers do,” Nappi says. “The company’s also offered what they call a retention package. So, in other words, we want our employees to stay, the company wants its employees to stay at the plant through closure in 202. To help ensure that, there’s a retention program in place so, if workers stay, they receive a generous payment, depending on the position, of up to about $250,000.”
He says the retention package is in addition to the wage increases and normal severance pay.
“Additionally, the company guaranteed that even though one of the two units is shutting down in 2020 that there’d be no layoffs, no reduction of personnel until the second unit shuts down in 2021,” Nappi says.
John Melia is spokesman for Local 1-2 Utility Workers of America.
“Entergy is circulating what it says is an offer,” Melia says. “The fact of the matter is at the negotiating table, when we asked that it be put in writing, they broke off talks.”
Entergy’s Nappi says that was not the case.
“So all of the offers that Entergy made to the union on important matters like health care, wage increases, the lucrative retention payments, were all made in writing,” says Nappi.
The sides disputed late Monday what “put in writing” signified. Again, Melia.
“The story that Entergy is saying that it put this offer in writing is not true at the negotiating table,” says Melia. “There’s a big difference between having drafts around and sorting out an agreement and going back and forth with the various parties and getting it down in a legal document. When push came to shove, and it was asked to be put into a legal document, that is when they ended talks until tomorrow.”
Melia says union members want a new collective bargaining agreement through 2022, one year after the Buchanan-based plant’s scheduled closure. Local 1-2 wants Entergy to retain its workers for the decommissioning process. Entergy’s Nappi responds.
“So it seems the union is insisting on guarantees about work after the plant shuts down during what’s called the decommissioning process,” says Nappi. “And, it’s not feasible for a few reasons. One is the company really doesn’t have a good handle on what types of jobs are going to be needed for that process.”
Both Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have contingency plans in place should union workers strike. Nappi says the negotiations affect 339 utility union members, from operations to maintenance. Security is not affected.