Budget Cuts Prompt LATA to Send Layoff Notices
By Bill Hughes
WEST PADUCAH, KY - Workers at three companies contracted to do work at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant have begun receiving notices that they may be laid off from work in July.
LATA Kentucky's Joe Walker said the contractor runs three businesses that employ 320 workers - Babcock and Wilcox Technical Services, S.M. Stoller Corporation, and LATA Environmental Services of Kentucky. Walker said notices were mailed Friday, and he estimated 260 people were on the mailing list, but the number of potential layoffs will probably be closer to 145 employees.
The 60-day notices to employees who might be affected are required by federal law. The WARN Act requires notification by any business employing more than 100 people that is closing or laying off more than 50 workers, if that is more than 1/3 of its active number of employees.
The reason for the layoffs is simple - lack of money. The Department of Energy issued the following statement Friday, indicating that sequestration and continuing resolution cuts have affected LATA's operating budget.
“The Department of Energy’s Paducah Site and its contractor, LATA Kentucky, have completed some important legacy waste cleanup activities at the Paducah site and other activities are nearing completion," the release said. "The workforce restructuring is necessary at this time due to the completion of selected activities and enactment of the continuing resolution and sequestration. We are working closely with our site contractors and the local community to support the workers affected by these changes and to ensure that moving forward our contractors have the right set of workforce skills on-site to achieve our mission at the greatest value for taxpayers."
Walker said the layoffs would be across all work groups, hourly and salary. Each project includes members of United Steel Workers Union local 550, along with company supervisors and other salaried employees.
Project Manager Mark Duff held a series of meetings with employees at the plant Friday, and another meeting is scheduled for Monday at a site in Kevil.
Jerrie Glisson and her husband, Lee, are one of several couples who both work for S.M. Stoller, and she said the meeting was obviously discouraging, since their entire household income could be at risk.
"We're not the only family, I know that there's others where husbands and wives both work out there, and it can be unfortunate for several families in our situation, " Glisson said.
Jerrie is a salary employee and Lee is hourly, so they won't know the full effect of the layoffs until LATA Kentucky makes those decisions. She said there is some discussion among employees about the possibility of DOE re-allocating funds from somewhere else to fill the shortfall and keep at least some of the jobs.
Walker wouldn't comment on that, but said LATA is re-evaluating the scope of their work based on remaining funding, and the work force will be trimmed based on which skills are needed.
Glisson said her family and fellow employees are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.
"We have hope that this is gonna come through, but if it doesn't, we can all be in bad shape, " she said.