AMARILLO, Texas, Aug. 28, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- After more than seven months at the bargaining table with Consolidated Nuclear Security Pantex (CNS), 87 percent of the unionized workers at the Amarillo, Texas, facility have voted to strike.
The Amarillo Metal Trades Council represents workers at the Department of Energy (DOE) Pantex facility. Workers have been in contract negotiations with CNS Pantex since January 2015. In early August, CNS Pantex representatives put forth what the company called their "best, last and final offer." That proposal was overwhelmingly rejected by a 10-1 margin by the workers. The ratification vote took place late last night, with 93 percent of those eligible to vote casting ballots.
Since voting down the last contract offer, the Amarillo Metal Trades Council negotiating team and company representatives have met, but the two sides remain at an impasse.
"Wages are not the issue," says Clarence Rashada, president of the Metal Trades Council. "Benefits, sick leave, medical coverage, prescription drugs, those are the issues."
Rashada pointed out that the employer is asking to eliminate defined benefit pensions for new hires and to increase healthcare costs for retirees.
Workers at CNS Pantex are responsible for the nuclear weapons life extension programs; weapons dismantlement; development, testing, and fabrication of high explosives components; and storage and surveillance of plutonium pits.
"These workers face dangerous situations every day when they go to work. The Department of Energy and CNS Pantex know that these workers risk exposure to cancer-causing chemicals daily, yet the DOE has imposed a ridiculous policy upon its contractors that limits benefits based on a flawed market-based value formula," says Ron Ault, president of the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO.
Ault is referring to DOE Policy 350.1, which requires contractors use a Benefit Value Study (BenVal) to determine the value of the assessed benefits package of similar organizations in the same industry—also known as comparator organizations—to determine the value of health care and pension benefits for employees. The policy explicitly limits contractor reimbursements to 105 percent of the value of the BenVal survey. If the cost is more than five percent of the other organization's plan then the contractor has to submit a "corrective action plan to achieve conformance" to a DOE contracting officer.
"The DOE has hamstrung its contractors and limited the benefits for employees at our nation's nuclear facilities with this policy," says Ault. "You cannot use non-union companies such as Sprint Nextel for comparison to workers who deal with weapons grade plutonium. There are no legitimate comparator organizations that do what these workers do."
Workers have also cited the "Human Reliability Program (HRP)" as a factor in voting down the contract. The program can revoke security access from a worker based on a "tip" charging that the worker committed a violation without allowing the worker to defend himself.
"There's no system of redress in these instances, and that's unfair," said Ault. "We need checks and balances."
The Metal Trades Department is a trade department of the AFL-CIO. It was chartered in 1908 to coordinate negotiating, organizing and legislative efforts of affiliated metalworking and related crafts and trade unions. Seventeen national and international unions are affiliated with the MTD today. More than 100,000 workers in private industry and federal establishments work under contracts negotiated by MTD Councils. Workers retain membership in their own trade unions.
The Amarillo Metal Trades Council is a10-union Council within the Metal Trades Department that represents roughly 1,200 Pantex workers. The unions include: International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW); International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE); United Association (UA); International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers(IBB); Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART); International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT); Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU); International Association of Fire Fighters.
SOURCE Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO