The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Thursday, June 12, 2003

USEC nears layoff level
The company had cut 196 of 200 jobs through early retirement and voluntary layoffs by Wednesday.

By Joe Walker

USEC Inc. is nearing its goal of eliminating about 200 more jobs at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant without resorting to a large number of forced layoffs.

Shortly before the 4 p.m. Wednesday deadline, 87 workers 54 hourly and 33 salaried had applied for early retirement based on incentives from USEC and the Department of Energy.

The final numbers might change slightly because of last-minute withdrawals or additions, said Leon Owens, president of Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Local 5-550.

The deadline for filing for voluntary layoff incentives is 4 p.m. today. As of Wednesday, 22 people had applied. All were hourly workers because the layoff offer was for the union only, Owens said.

The 109 new filings and 87 early-retirement applicants last winter put USEC just four jobs short of its target. USEC announced in late November that it would eliminate about 200 jobs to save about $15 million a year.

During the first round of cuts ending in January, 37 union and 50 salaried workers took earlier retirement. But the union was later notified of another 103 hourly job reductions, which means that 27 jobs must be cut involuntarily after this round, Owens said. "I'm obviously not pleased with that."

Since Feb. 4, the 635-member union has been striking mainly over health insurance and pension issues. Last week, the union approved a back-to-work proposal that USEC rejected Tuesday. Negotiators tentatively plan to meet at 1 p.m. Friday to try to narrow differences regarding insurance coverage and cost.

During the vote, several union members said older employees were contemplating retirement and younger workers faced job cuts when they returned to work.

Earlier retirees took advantage of USEC incentives plus $3 million in Department of Energy funding for displaced workers. Owens said the new wave of retirements was stimulated by another $1.5 million in DOE funding through legislation by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville.

"I'm grateful that Sen. McConnell helped us get the additional funding, which is a good thing particularly for our senior workers," Owens said. "If that hadn't happened, we'd have been looking at fewer retirements and quite a few more involuntary reductions in force in the PACE ranks. Those would have been younger workers."

Owens said a retiring 55-year-old, 30-year plant worker will get more than a year's severance pay plus $400 a month for seven years. Voluntary layoff incentives consist of a $10,000 lump-sum payment, a severance package and educational, relocation and medical benefits, he said.