Global Union Support Mounts in 11-month dispute at Illinois Uranium Plant
PITTSBURGH, May 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United Steelworkers (USW) today released a strong statement by European union leaders calling on Honeywell Corp.'s CEO David Cote to immediately end the 11-month-long lockout of 228 workers at the company's uranium processing plant of USW Local 7-669 in Metropolis, IL.
The letter is from the top officers of three big European labor federations to Honeywell's CEO and states: "We call on you to take all measures to ensure that this lockout be ended immediately, with all workers welcomed back to their plant without reprisals, and with full agreement of their union the United Steelworkers." It was sent May 12 by the European Metalworkers Federation (EMF), European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers' Federation, and the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU).
In a side statement accompanying the EMF communique, influential top representatives of European Honeywell workers – Michael Petersen, Honeywell European Works Council (EWC) President; and Ian Tonks, National Officer of the union UNITE in the United Kingdom, stated:
"We believe the safety of the plant has been compromised on several occasions by the present temporary workforce. We find these actions totally unacceptable and we are dismayed at the inflexible attitude of Honeywell management towards its long standing employees of Metropolis."
Both Petersen of Germany and Tonks of England have recently visited in the U.S. to confront company officials with their responsibility to resolve the dispute. The EWC represents 30,000 Honeywell workers in Europe.
USW International President Leo Gerard had previously warned the company that if they didn't get serious about sporadic bargaining for a new agreement in the lockout that began Jun. 28, 2010, "We would begin to advocate to our global union allies the disrespect that Honeywell is showing to our members and disregard they have for the Metropolis community."
The European labor leaders, who together represent 16 million workers in many countries, declared in the letter: "Considering the height of current concern about safety and security in the nuclear industry and its supply chain, particularly after the disaster at Fukushima in Japan, we are deeply concerned about the situation in Metropolis."
The European leaders wrote, "We are therefore appalled by the reported findings of the U.S. nuclear watchdog, the National Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the federal Occupational Safety and Health authorities, of uncontrolled releases of toxic chemicals, breaches in safety procedure and training."
They added, "Nuclear facilities must be run by highly trained and skilled workers within companies ensuring their workforces' health and safety, a high level of safety for the wider community and full transparency in the treatment and processing of highly dangerous materials. Independent oversight by public authorities must be guaranteed."
The Honeywell-Metropolis plant is operating during the lockout with inexperienced temporary workers to convert uranium for use in commercial nuclear reactors. According to a USW report issued early in the lockout, up to 1.12 million pounds of hydrofluoric acid at a time were in use at Honeywell Metropolis Works. Honeywell has acknowledged that a release of just 16 percent of this amount of hydrofluoric acid could impact as many as 128,000 people in the surrounding 25 mile radius.
Leading the USW delegation to Europe was Dan Flippo, Director of USW District 9 in Birmingham, who represents other U.S. units of Honeywell and is chair of the union's labor council at the company. He was accompanied in this past week's European meetings with USW Local 7-669 locked out members John Paul Smith and Steven Lech of Metropolis.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)