LONDON — In the wake of Easter Sunday’s industrial accident at Arkansas Nuclear One where one worker was killed and eight others injured, at least one ANO contractor has laid off employees who have worked at the plant during shutdowns.
Entergy contractor Chicago Bridge and Iron (CBI) laid off more than 100 employees during the first week of April, a source who is employed by the contractor told The Courier.
CBI has corporate offices in The Woodlands, Texas, and builds power plant industrial complexes, and maintains infrastructure for those facilities.
As of Monday afternoon, CBI officials had not responded to requests from The Courier for comments about layoffs with their company at ANO.
An ANO spokesperson said last week when workers aren’t needed at the plant during down times, the contracting company is released from their contract with Entergy.
“Typically, contract workers are hired to perform specific jobs during refueling outages,” ANO spokesman Michael Bowling said last week. “These workers would be released from their contract when their jobs are complete or when there services are no longer needed. Some contractors hired for the 1R24 [refueling outage] have been released.”
According to an employee who was laid off on April 3, iron workers, pipe fitters, painters, laborers and carpenters joined the ranks of those who are temporarily out of a job.
“They told my supervisor not to call anybody in on Sunday,” the source said. “The supervisor told everyone to stay home. I went in on Wednesday and received layoff paperwork. All they needed was scaffold builders and extra labor. They said they are supposed to recall us, but CBI and Entergy officials were vague about it. They said we weren’t needed.
“They gave no estimated time of when they will recall those who got laid off. We were scheduled to be there till June. Some traveled as many as 200 miles to work the outage. What now for them?”
The source reported that Entergy officials said there will be a quick-as-possible turnaround on restarting the Unit Two reactor.
“Supervisors said they were trying to bring Unit Two back on line by the end of the month,” the source said. “They said they would call people back.” The laid off employee is trying to find work now. A second source, another laid off employee, said she doesn’t blame ANO for the layoffs, and anticipates unemployment benefits to arrive this week, but with a nearly 70 percent reduction of her regular pay.
“I have no hard feelings towards the contracting company I worked for, or ANO, because I was laid off,” she said. “I understand the need for investigations and a plan to move forward.
“Filing for unemployment through Michigan has presented some challenges. I’ve had no income for the past two weeks. Hopefully, I will receive a check this week.”
The second source, who has a residence in Atkins, traveled back to Arkansas after working as a laborer in Florida during the past year. She was somewhat surprised by the way she and her coworkers were informed of the layoff.
“They called Sunday to tell me not to come in till tomorrow’s shift [April 2],” she said.
“The next night, they called and said come in to be processed out. They didn’t tell us anything other than we were being laid off. I hope to get the opportunity to work at ANO again.”
She said she understands the dynamic impact the accident had on plant workers and administrators. She feels fortunate she was able to enjoy her time with family this past week.
“The accident was so tragic and unexpected, and impacted the whole community,” she said. “Who am I to complain.”
One Little Rock union representative believes the best thing they could do for newly unemployed workers is find them work.
“I anticipate once the plant is back on line, they will be back to work,” Lindsay Brown, Local Union 424 representative, said. “The layoff is based on no need for these folks until Entergy navigates its way through its accident investigation. Entergy has laid off individuals who aren’t pertinent to restarting the plant.”
“It is intrinsic to the construction industry to have temporary layoffs due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather and supply issues. This particular incident, a 550-ton stator falling from rigging, is no exception,” Brown said.
“Construction is the only job I know where one works themselves out of a job,” he said. “Some painters would be done by now. It depends on the work packages. Our folks know what they’re in for. Maybe there should be a better safety net.”