The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

PACE vote expected amid signs of progress
Talks continue as both sides see positive signs, and a resolution could be submitted for a vote this week.

By Joe Walker

Union and company negotiators are edging closer to a strike-ending agreement that could be submitted later this week to 635 nuclear workers who have been picketing the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant since Feb. 4.

Phone conversations between union President Leon Owens and senior USEC managers "have been positive and encouraging," said company spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle. "We hope a resolution will be reached soon."

Owens, president of Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Local 5-550, said the talks continued through the weekend and Monday.

"We've made significant progress," he said. "I don't want to raise expectations again, but we're hopeful that in a short period of time, we'll have at least something that will be equitable for both sides."

He said a resolution could come this week for ratification by the union. Although the union approved a back-to-work deal June 5, USEC rejected it five days later and said the major sticking point was health insurance.

Since then, Owens said he has been bargaining by phone with unidentified corporate managers. Neither he nor Stuckle would discuss what progress has been made.

On Jan. 31, the membership overwhelmingly rejected a company proposal to nearly double workers’ share of insurance premiums and not increase pension. Other bargaining issues have been work responsibility, short-term disability and wages.