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Union faults Honeywell 'show of force'

BY CARRIE DILLARDcdillard@paducahsun.com

METROPOLIS, Ill. - As Honeywell and United Steelworkers Local 7-669 entered yet another night of negotiations Wednesday, union representatives say both parties have remained professional at the bargaining table but remain far apart on several key issues.

The current three-year contract expires at midnight Friday.

United Steelworkers Local 7-669 President Stephen Lech said moves by Honeywell to bus in salaried and contract workers earlier that day undermine the opportunity for a new labor agreement.

In addition, he noted, the company has also doubled the amount of around the clock supervision at the plant.

"It now appears that Honeywell is more interested in intimidating our members with a show of force in preparation for a labor dispute than in bargaining for a settlement with the union," Lech said. "If this is the road that Honeywell wants to travel, we have no choice but to prepare ourselves."

Peter Dalpe, Honeywell's spokesman, said the company informed the union bargaining committee on Monday that its contingency preparations would become more visible this week.

"Given the uncertainty that surrounds any bargaining process, it is standard practice for companies like Honeywell to make preparations to continue their operations regardless of the outcome of contract negotiations," he said.

Metropolis Works is the only facility in the country that converts uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride, an essential compound used to produce enriched uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power plants.

"Customers are counting on the plant for certainty that their needs for uranium hexafluoride will be met," Dalpe added.

Negotiations for a new contract started on July 21.

Both sides are hoping to avoid the kind of dispute that resulted in a 401-day lockout in 2010-2011 when the previous contract expired.

"The company shares the union's view that talks to this point have been professional and productive, and we are hopeful that we will see continued progress to close the remaining differences in contract proposals," Dalpe said.

Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.

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