The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Friday, May 03, 2002

Workforce agency also needs to know if USEC plans layoffs
No firm plans of cuts in Paducah have been revealed, but companies are required to give 60 days' notice.

By Joe Walker

State employment officials are watchful of persistent rumors that USEC Inc. is considering laying off hundreds more workers at the Paducah uranium enrichment plant.

Although USEC says there are no firm plans for cuts, the rumors languish as the company continues to look at ways to reduce costs. Layoff talk increased after the company reported last week that profits dropped by nearly $62 million during the past nine months.

"We don't have any official notification of anything," said Sheila Clark, director of the Hopkinsville-based West Kentucky Workforce Investment Board. "We've been hearing for months there might be some changes at USEC, but we're not on any greater alert of that today than we were two months ago."

Companies are required to give state and federal employment agencies 60 days' notice of planned permanent layoffs. There was no notification of periodic layoffs during the 18 months before the closure of VMV Enterprises locomotive shop last month because those cuts "were thought to be temporary," Clark said.

The board receives state funding to oversee employment and training activities under the Workforce Investment Act. It has distributed $1.5 million to help more than 2,000 people who lost jobs because of closings at Mattel, Ingersoll-Rand and other plants in western Kentucky, and is seeking funding to help former VMV workers.

"We're putting final figures together for VMV," Clark said. "If there are USEC job cuts being contemplated, it would be very critical for us to know that information now so that I can ask for more dollars."

Clark said she could not confirm that 300 to 400 USEC job cuts are contemplated for July. If that were decided, it would be vital to know immediately because the state budget starts July 1, she said.

USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle said the rumors are an outgrowth of company efforts to improve its bottom line. "As we have said for months, we continue to look for ways to increase efficiency, but we have no concrete plans (for job cuts) on the table right now."

Leon Owens, president of the plant's energy workers' union, said in March that USEC was planning more job cuts in a couple of months. Asked Thursday about the rumored July cuts, he said, "I have not been notified of anything remotely like that."

Others familiar with the USEC situation speculate the cuts could be less than rumored and involve many incentive-based early retirements.

Many of the several hundred workers laid off from USEC in the past several years have found work as consultants or employees of plant environmental cleanup firms. Clark said there are some projections that another 800 to 900 people will be needed for Paducah plant environmental work during the next few years, even though the Department of Energy is scrutinizing cleanup budgets at plants nationwide.

"We're interested in that for the long-term projections of what our needs would be for training dollars," she said. "We've been discussing it with Department of Labor representatives in Washington, trying to determine the impact on our technical and community college system down the road. You don't have the kind of money to train 800 people just lying around."