Striking security workers held a rally Tuesday at Savannah River Site and have begun a picket they pledge to maintain “until we get back to the table with (Centerra-SRS),” said the president of their local union.
The strike caused “expected traffic delays for SRS commuters” Tuesday morning, according to a Department of Energy news release, and prompted the opening of several entrances for SRS personnel to use on a 24- or 12-hours-a-day basis.
Mathias Miller, president of United Professional Pro-Force of Savannah River, Local 125, and a K-9 officer at SRS, said about 330 workers are on strike, and about 150 of them and some family members turned out Tuesday for the rally. In all, about 200 people were there, he said.
The picket line was to be maintained until 8 p.m. Tuesday, he said. After that, it will be maintained daily in two four-hour shifts, morning and evening, Miller said.
He said 92 percent of his membership rejected Centerra’s latest contract offer after 18 weeks of negotiations, and 87 percent voted to strike rather than return to negotiations.
The Department of Energy’s Savannah River Operations Office announced earlier this month that it would exercise an option to extend the terms of its current contract with Centerra for 24 months, from Oct. 8, 2017, to Oct. 7, 2019, according to the release.
The original contract was awarded Oct. 8, 2009, for a base period of five years. It included a provision allowing DOE to extend it for up to five years. DOE extended the contract for three years on Oct. 8, 2014, to Oct. 7, 2017.
Miller said the main sticking points were an increase in insurance premiums and changes in how the company handles things such as transfers.
“Our coverage went down and our premiums were going to go up,” Miller said.
Transfer requests used to hinge on whether an employee had the training and desire to take on a different job, and whether there was an opening. The new contract would have given Centerra final say and it could refuse a request that met all three of the former criteria, he said.
Centerra issued a statement defending its offer:
“We believe the package that was offered is the most lucrative Protective Force Collective Bargaining Agreement ever proposed at a DOE Site anywhere in the country. The total cost increase to wages and benefits would have exceeded $30 million over the next six years.
“The CBA that was not ratified also included a six-year medical plan in which deductibles, co-pays (e.g., $15 to visit personal physician and $30 to visit specialist) and all co-insurance would have been applied to the maximum out-of-pocket expenses for employees, which was negotiated in the CBA so that no one family member would have incurred an annual cost greater than $1,000, and no family would incur medical expenses greater than $2,000.”
Centerra-SRS is contracted to provide security for the 310‐square‐mile SRS, including access control, property protection, law enforcement, criminal investigations, traffic control, canine explosives and drug detection, aviation support, river patrol, alarm equipment monitoring, and a Special Response Team, according to a news release from DOE.
The DOE stated in the news release that the site still has security protection despite the strike.
“Centerra-SRS has allocated appropriate resources to ensure continued protection of SRS security interests and personnel,” the release states. “A trained internal contingency force, augmented by contingency forces from other sites, is in place to assume the duties of workers who joined the strike. Measures have been implemented to minimize security support needs, with no significant impacts to overall Site operations.”
GRAPHIC: SRS Barricade Status