The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Monday, February 03, 2003

PACE thinks mediator would lack USEC input

By Shelley Street, The Paducah Sun

Although USEC Inc., operator of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, has offered to meet with a federal mediator to negotiate with union representatives, the union president said it may do no good.

"We have called and offered to meet again with the assistance of a federal mediator, and we hope the union will accept that offer," USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle said.

Leon Owens, president of Local 5-550 of Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy (PACE) Workers International, said he agreed to talk to a mediator by phone, but that he sees no use in meeting with the negotiator unless corporate employees in Bethesda, Md., attend. Owens said USEC negotiators are being guided by people at the corporate level.

"I struggle finding the rationale to even meet and to bring such a mediator in," Owens said. "The company has expressed no interest in discussing the issues that the union has brought up."

Those issues remain pension, medical cost coverage, wages and the length of the contract, he said.

"A federal mediator is there to bring both sides together, and also try to narrow the differences between both parties," Owens said. "He's not there to resolve disputes. He's there to basically listen and bring both parties together. But if one party has absolutely no interest in a topic, it's pretty hard to bring those parties together.

"I definitely do not want it to appear that this union is not interested in meeting. We've been interested all along, and we can make decisions here, locally."

PACE's contract with USEC expired at 7 a.m. Friday. The union voted overwhelmingly Friday night to reject USEC's contract offer, but its approximately 620 workers will continue working through early this week, Owen said.