Health and Safety of Nation’s Nuclear Workers and the Public in Jeopardy

Washington, DC—If the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) successfully consolidates its operational contracts at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas thousands of work years of institutional knowledge could being lost, putting the nation’s national security at risk.

The NNSA plans to issue just one contract that will cover both facilities. This Request for Proposal (RFP) does not require the successor contractor to employ the existing workforce. Failing to include this provision in the RFP could prove dire at high-hazard nuclear operations such as these. “Without this provision contractors could employ unskilled labor putting the health and safety of the public and these skilled workers in jeopardy,” said Ron Ault, President of the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO that represents workers at both facilities.

It has been a requirement since these facilities began operations that the workforce carries over. The MTD and its affiliated unions have asked DOE Secretary Dr. Stephen Chu to step in on the worker’s behalf and direct the NNSA to amend their current RFP so that it specifically requires the successor contractor to maintain the current workforce and the rates of pay and levels of benefits; a practice that has been followed for these facilities for more than sixty years.

The Metal Trades Councils—the Atomic Trades & Labor Council at Y-12 and the Metal Trades Council of Amarillo, Texas and Vicinity at Pantex—represent employees who work under five year contracts between the NNSA and private contractors. Although contractors change every five years most of the employees do not, some having been at the facilities for decades. Most hold the highest security clearance levels.

Workers at these facilities are also facing separate attacks to their health and safety in the form of HR 4310 House Armed Services Committee’s 2013 National Defense Authorization bill. Legislation pending in Congress would shift the entire safety & health program to NNSA and eliminate current DOE worker health and safety standards and enforcement, substituting ineffective standards and “performance-based” oversight.

The MTD and its affiliated unions strongly oppose changes in worker safety and health contained in HR4310, and believe it will put nuclear workers and the public’s health and safety at risk.