By Frank Lewis
USW Local 689 and SPFPA Local 66, the unions representing a majority of workers at the PORTS D&D site, in coordination with the Pike and Scioto county commissioners are planning a town hall meeting Sept. 9 to address the pending layoffs and discussing future options such as organizing a public caravan to take the community’s fight to Washington, D.C.
Organizers are reporting that through a series of phone conversations with Washington, D.C. officials it has been made very clear the Department of Energy wants a reduction in workforce at the site regardless of community support for the project.
“We were basically told the DOE wants us to deal with the cuts this year or suffer a greater job loss next year,” Mike Crabtree, Chairman of the Scioto County Board of Commissioners, said. “I don’t know about you, but that sounds like schoolyard bullying to me.”
The four counties of Pike, Ross, Scioto and Jackson have supported nuclear activities at the plant for the past 60 years and unanimously joined together in support for the future vision of the site.
“I don’t understand why DOE continues to try and punish a workforce that is only trying to clean up their (DOE) mess,” Herman Potter, President of USW Local 689, said. “This project has the potential to set the standard for how to safely and efficiently clean-up other former nuclear sites around the country and all DOE wants to do is bite off its nose to spite its face.”
Officials went on to say the DOE and Ohio EPA told the community that accepting an on-site waste disposal facility will be better for the environment and save billions in tax-payer dollars. The community accepted having a waste disposal facility in their backyard without a major dispute. They said elected officials and members of the community have repeatedly written the last two Secretaries of DOE “pleading for continued funding to prevent layoffs and every year the department continues to submit a budget cutting funding for the site.”
Fluor BWXT officials said Wednesday, the decontamination and decommissioning project contractor is currently working to evaluate its workforce needs to continue the safe and effective cleanup at the site within the projected funding profile. As part of this process, Fluor says DOE expects the contractor will make adjustments in the current workforce to ensure safe, efficient execution of priority work activities and programmatic requirements.
Fluor BWXT officials went on to say – “The Department of Energy is committed to the safe and successful cleanup of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant Site.”
They released the following statement to the Daily Times.
“Fluor-BWXT’s funding forecast for FY 16 has decreased significantly so we must adjust D&D work scope. This re-planning is driven by a projected reduction of appropriated funds and reduced barter proceeds that help pay for the project. The projected reductions in staffing necessitated by these changes may include 325 – 500 Fluor-BWXT and a proportionate number of subcontractor staff. All job categories will likely be impacted. Reductions will occur between October and December 2015 via voluntary and involuntary separation programs. Our goal continues to be the safe and effective cleanup of the site, while supporting the regional economy and being responsible stewards of taxpayer funding.”
To stay up-to-date on the issue, officials said residents can visit www.uswlocal1689.us or the Keep PORTS Moving page on Facebook.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.