Honeywell upgrades could cost hundreds their jobs for a year or more
METROPOLIS, Ill. — A troubling timetable: a local employer lays out its plans, sending its employees scurrying for answers yet again.
It's been yet another troubling day for hundreds of laid off workers in our area after some potentially very bad news from their employer.
Wednesday, leaders at the Metropolis Honeywell Plant met with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to discuss how to safeguard the plant from an extreme natural disaster. The kind that knocked out the Fukushima nuclear plant last year.
An NRC spokesperson talked about "if" this plant would open at all earlier Wednesday. The spokesperson used the phrase "if and when" when he spoke of Honeywell's resuming operations.
Now, the NRC is backing away from that, saying they were using a casual phrase and didn't mean to imply that they had information the plant might close.
We do know for sure: there's a strong possibility many of those laid off workers won't return for a very long time.
"What we know for certain is that we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. We don't know what's happening now," United Steelworkers Local 7-669 spokesperson John Paul Smith said.
It's a familiar feeling for Smith and his coworkers.
"I thought we'd be back within a month or so," Smith said.
Wednesday, a Honeywell spokesperson said there's a possibility the plant could shut down for 12 to 15 months to upgrade plant equipment so it can withstand an extreme weather event. During that time, half the workforce could be laid off.
Smith said 80 of his workers are still unemployed after the surprise shutdown back in May.
Union members aren't sure what to think about Wednesday's news.
"We could speculate if it's to control the market price. We could speculate if it really is the safety concerns or we could speculate if it's revenge for the things that actually happened during the lockout," Smith said.
Smith said his coworkers are tired of all the uncertainty.
"I don't know how much further it can grow. I think the distrust is as about as high as it can get."
Smith said many who've dedicated years at the plant might soon be forced to work somewhere else.
"A lot of people are going to be looking for new employment," Smith said.
Smith said many of his coworkers will be out of unemployment benefits in six months and that while they don't want to leave town, many are considering that just to find work.
The company said some of the affected employees may have an opportunity to apply for jobs at the other facilities. The union spokesperson said in the past, his members haven't been given that opportunity.
If you'd like to listen to a portion of the interview with the NRC, when the spokesperson used the phrase "if and when," click here.