Entergy replaces union workers after talks fail

PORT GIBSON, Miss. -- Entergy Corp. has locked out union security workers at its nuclear plant near Port Gibson, Miss., after contract negotiations with the United Government Security Officers of America Local 36 failed.

A three-year contract with security officers at Mississippi's only nuclear plant expired at midnight Sunday.

Mike Balduzzi, Entergy Nuclear's senior vice president of nuclear technical services, said in a statement that Entergy Nuclear used a contingency staffing plan to ensure that a professional security force remained at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station after the contract expired.

"Since those employees would have been working without a contract, they would reserve the right to leave their posts and strike at any time _ a situation that is unacceptable at an Entergy Nuclear plant," Balduzzi said.

"The health and safety of the public is foremost among our obligations, and this measure will ensure we meet the rigorous standards required for securing, operating and maintaining our nuclear power plant."

Balduzzi says experienced individuals at Grand Gulf and from other Entergy nuclear plants and professional security firms will be filling those positions. Officials with New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. declined to say how many employees had been locked out, whether talks are continuing, or what contract terms are in dispute.

Officials with the Colorado-based union did not return requests for comment Tuesday.

John Arnold, a spokesman for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which provides neutral arbitrators for labor disputes, says the service "was involved" in talks. "We remain in touch, in contact, with the parties," Arnold said.

In June, 242 union workers at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth, Mass., were locked out when their contract expired, later rejecting an Entergy contract offer. The company and workers signed a new contract that ended the lockout after four weeks. A contract with a separate group of union workers at the Massachusetts plant expires later this month, with more labor unrest possible.