Vermont Yankee Employees Vote on Union Contract Through Thursday Night

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(Host) A tentative settlement has been reached in contract talks at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. On Thursday evening, union members are voting on whether to approve the deal. The current contract expires at midnight, and workers had threatened to strike if the talks failed to reach an agreement.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) After days of tense negotiations, the union’s leadership and Vermont Yankee shook hands on a tentative agreement that may avert a strike at Vermont’s only nuclear plant.

Health care and salaries were the main sticking points in the negotiations. Union members charged that Entergy planned a 500 percent increase in workers’ health care costs. The union also complained that the company’s proposed wage increase was below the rate of inflation.

Brian Cosgrove, a spokesman for Entergy-Vermont Yankee, would not discuss the settlement terms in the proposed three-year contract.

(Cosgrove) “But certainly both sides have worked very hard. They’ve worked in good faith. I think there’s been a real effort and we’re hoping for a positive outcome.”

(Dillon) Voting on the contract started Thursday afternoon. Cosgrove says the results probably won’t be tallied for several hours.

The contract will cover 148 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The group represents electricians, mechanics, radiation protection technicians and control room operators.

The labor unrest at Yankee comes as Entergy, the Louisiana company that owns the Vernon plant and nine other nuclear reactors, posted strong profits for the last quarter. As the possibility of a strike loomed, Yankee prepared to run the plant with management employees – a plan the union said was unsafe. The company also called off a visit to Vermont this week by Entergy CEO Wayne Leonard.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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