Union raises job concerns for TVA guards

Published 11:34 pm Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s decision to put nuclear power plant guards back on the payroll has raised safety and job security concerns with a labor union.

The nation’s largest public utility announced in September it was taking over security services at its three nuclear plants after contracting for guards through Pinkerton Government Services since 2002.

As TVA moves ahead with those plans, members of the 500-guard force wanting to stay with TVA are having to apply for “at will” positions without union representation, the United Government Security Officers of America union complained Wednesday.

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In a statement, the union said the “direct” hiring of guards at the Browns Ferry plant in Alabama next month “has caused significant concerns among officers about job security.” It also “raised questions about previous safety issues and a possible increase in safety infractions during the changeover and beyond.”

TVA spokesman Terry Johnson said having guards that are TVA employees rather than contractors will improve “lines of communication” between the security force and their managers at Sequoyah, Browns Ferry and the Watts Bar plant near Spring City.

It also will “allow TVA to better focus on the most important aspect of our work, which is insuring the health and safety of our employees, the public and our plants.”

TVA developed a detailed plan for the changeover that will insure “security is maintained at a high state of readiness during the transition,” Johnson said.

The UGSOA represented guards at two of the plants — Sequoyah near Chattanooga and Browns Ferry near Huntsville, Ala.

Johnson said newly hired guards will have the “same rights and protections as other employees of the agency,” including the “right to choose whether or not they want union representation.”

The transition is slated to occur in April at Browns Ferry, in May at Watts Bar near Spring City and in June at Sequoyah, Johnson said.