By Bill Bartleman firstname.lastname@example.org
Involuntary layoffs began Thursday at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant when USEC managers began notifying salaried workers that they were losing their jobs.
In most cases, the workers notified on Thursday were asked to collect their personal belongings and were sent home after they completed work assignments or turned over work to other employees. They and other workers who will be notified today will be on paid administrative leave until their layoffs are effective on July 14, said Georgann Lookofsky, plant spokeswoman.
"Our intent is to make this process as painless as possible," Lookofsky said. "These were excellent workers .... and we want to treat them with as much dignity and respect as we can. We tried to be circumspect with the process.
"People knew this was coming," she continued. "There was a private meeting with the employee and supervision, and they were given letters outlining the things they needed to know. They had time to complete any outstanding work ... or give it to another employee and then collect their (personal) things."
She said the layoffs were effective immediately for security and safety reasons. She noted that some operations in the plant are classified, and that computers contain important proprietary information.
USEC announced earlier this year that 850 people would be laid off at its Paducah and Portsmouth, Ohio, uranium enrichment plants. That was later reduced to 621, of which 271 were at Paducah.
Last month, USEC said the breakdown at Paducah would include 165 salaried workers and 106 union workers. On Thursday, Lookofsky said there have been some minor changes in the layoff numbers, but she declined to release revised figures. She also would not say how many salaried workers were notified on Thursday or how many would be notified today.
In May, 91 salaried workers and 51 union workers volunteered to be part of the layoff. Lookofsky said most of those were accepted. "We had a few who were in special situations that we couldn't let them go," she said.
Layoffs of union workers won't begin until next month. She said those workers would be notified in a manner consistent with provisions of the contract that USEC has with the unions.
While some layoffs are effective immediately, others won't be effective for a year, plant officials have said. After the layoffs are completed, the Paducah plant will have about 1,300 workers.
Those being laid off are eligible for an enhanced benefit package that includes lump-sum payments of up to $17,500 or up to 34 weeks of pay. They also will be eligible for unemployment benefits, health insurance payments, retraining assistance and relocation assistance.