Y-12 introduces 4-hour workday

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Y-12 union nixes ‘4/10’ Plant re-evaluating plan already applied to salaried workers By FRANK MUNGER, [email protected] September 17, 2005 OAK RIDGE Union leaders have rejected a proposed “4/10” work schedule at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, raising questions about whether the entire program will be scrapped. Kenny Cook, president of the Atomic Trades and Labor Council, said union delegates discussed the proposal at a Sept. 8 business meeting and voted not to take the issue before the rank-and-file workers. BWXT Y-12, the federal contractor that manages the nuclear defense plant, had already instigated the new work schedule four days a week, 10 hours a day with its salaried employees on a trial basis. Mike Monnett, a company spokesman, said Friday that the work plan is being reconsidered in light of the ATLC’s move. Monnett said BWXT would make a decision Sept. 23 on whether to continue the 4/10 schedule on a trial basis, adopt it permanently for salaried workers or return to the old five-day work week. About 4,700 people work at the Oak Ridge plant, where nuclear warhead parts are built and dismantled. A couple thousand salaried workers began the Monday-through-Thursday schedule in early August, but Y-12 general manager Dennis Ruddy acknowledged it would be difficult for the program to be successful without all payrolls involved. The ATLC represents about 1,200 hourly workers at Y-12. BWXT announced its new work plan in May, and the company’s tactics angered union officials because the work schedule is a part of the contract and subject to negotiations. Hundreds of hourly workers staged a rally outside the Oak Ridge plant to show their displeasure with management. Ruddy said he apologized for not discussing the plan with union leaders before the announcement. He said BWXT wanted to make sure everybody at Y-12 heard about the plans and the potential benefits before the message got filtered through the rumor mill. The contractor said the schedule change was expected to increase manufacturing productivity by providing fewer starts and stops in some processing areas and more “hands-on” time by employees. Cook said union delegates unanimously approved a motion Sept. 8 saying they were not interested “at this time” in changing to a 4/10 work schedule. If delegates had recommended a change, the proposal would have been put to a referendum of the union membership. The ATLC president said some workers simply had a problem with a workday that extended beyond eight hours. Others didn’t like the BWXT proposal because it would have reduced the number of annual holidays from 11 to 9, he said. Monnett declined to comment on the ATLC’s rejection. “That’s their decision to make, and we’ll respect it,” he said. BWXT put together a business model that showed “significant gains” in performance and efficiency if the entire plant went to a four-day workweek, Monnett said. “If we don’t get the whole plant, we’ll have to completely reevaluate that,” he said. Senior Writer Frank Munger may be reached at 865-342-6329.