Local 1-689 Ratifies Contract With Mid-America Conversion Services

Local 1-689 members at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup site in Piketon, Ohio, ratified a new five-year agreement on Nov. 5, 2020, with Mid-America Conversion Services.

The contract covers about 130 workers at the site’s Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Project, which converts depleted uranium hexafluoride for reuse or disposal. 

The unit now includes some 40 health and safety technicians (HSTs), procedure writers, planners and some administrative assistants the local organized.

The new contract goes back to 2017 and will expire in January 2022. Local 1-689 President John Knauff said numerous unfair labor practice charges and grievances resulted in nearly $850,000 in backpay and $30,000 in damages from the contractor’s unlawful implementation of benefits.

Knauff said the newly-organized members had varied wage rates for the same work prior to joining the union. With pay rate adjustments in the new contract, most are now in parity within the same job classification, he said.

The local negotiated a new PPO health care plan that covers pharmacy copays and contains small deductibles for individuals and families.

“Overall, it’s a really good contract given the times we’re in,” Knauff said. “These old, experienced workers along with a good collective bargaining agreement are what make good operations happen. We tell these contractors that those are the kind of conditions you have to have for good, safe operations.”

Bargaining for the new agreement started in 2014, and during those six years the contractor changed from BWCS to Mid-America Conversion Services.

“There are lots of reasons why bargaining went this long,” Knauff said. “I think a lot of it is the Department of Energy (DOE) not technically being in the bargaining room.”

Bargaining in the USW’s atomic industry is unlike negotiations in the private or public sectors. DOE sets the bargaining expectations for its contractors, yet it does not engage in direct bargaining with the unions. That’s done between the unions and the contractors.

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