Honeywell and union talks delayed

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Reporter - Lauren Adams
Photojournalist - Chad Darnall

METROPOLIS, Ill. - It has been about a year since USW 7-669 President Stephen Lech has been back inside the Honeywell plant where he punched the time clock for nine years.

He is eager to return and get the men and women of the union back to work.  Lech admits not much progress was made Monday morning.

After just 45 minutes, talks ended between union officials, the company, and a third party mediator. The two sides were hoping to open up communication lines and create a smooth transition as more of the workforce prepares in the coming weeks to head back to work.

Lech says the company did not make it easy for everyone to come to the table. Some workers, he says, were not excused by the very company that wanted them there.

"Today's meeting was initiated by the company. It's going to involve some joint training with us and the company and it wasn't anything we asked for.  Certainly we didn't expect to pay for a meeting with the company so that's what it boiled down to."

Lech and the company are hoping to meet again in the next month.

Honeywell spokesman Peter Dalphe said, "It was a productive meeting, but our focus is on completing the upgrades and gaining NRC approval to restart production to serve our customers, which preserves jobs at the facility."

In fact, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a public meeting at their Maryland headquarters next week to discuss and review those changes they mandated back in October of 2012.

Plant President Larry Smith sent out a memo to all employees Monday saying the plant had seen "good progress."  Smith said about 270 of the initial 334 workforce will be back to work by June.

The letter admitted initial staffing numbers were lower because the plant has "been idle for a significant amount of time and we will need to re-establish ourselves as a reliable supplier."

Lech was hopeful those numbers would change, "It certainly doesn't mean that's set in stone.  I think very shortly after that we'll see an increase in the workforce because the plant needs bodies in order to produce the product."

"Everybody's ready for a normal life, me included," he added.

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