In a long-running labor dispute, Entergy Corp. on June 7 locked out union workers at its Pilgrim nuclear plant 38 miles southeast of Boston near Plymouth, Mass., bringing in workers from its other plants and contract workers to operate the 685-MW unit along with management officials.

At POWERnews publication time, the dispute continued, with charges swirling between the union and New Orleans-based Entergy, the nation’s second-largest nuclear plant operator after Exelon Corp. of Chicago. The labor strife with Local 369 of the Utility Workers of America (AFL-CIO) heated up when the contract between the 290-member union and Entergy expired May 15. The union members voted to authorize a strike May 4, after they rejected an earlier company offer. A federal mediator arrived at the plant on May 15, as the contract was expiring, attempting to avert a strike. The union and the company agreed to extend talks, but failed to reach agreement.

In locking out the union last week, Entergy said in a statement that it escorted union members out of the plant because the union “has stated flatly that while its members are not on strike, they reserve the right to walk off the job, without any notice, and leave the nuclear power plant critically understaffed and in violation of the plant’s operating license.”

Entergy said it has offered yearly wage increases to the union members “atop an average income that is already more than $122,000,” along with an enhanced health insurance plan proposed by the union and an incentive award plan. Union local president Dan Hurley claimed that Entergy “has made demands for major concessions on health care, salary and staffing.”

On Tuesday, the Utility Workers Union of America Local 369 issued a press release listing several complaints about how the utility is handling replacement workers. It includes the claim by one of those workers that the competency of replacement workers is “pretty low.” A local attorney has also filed a complaint against Entergy, alleging that the company’s housing of replacement workers onsite at the nuclear power plant violates local Plymouth zoning laws.

The latest labor turmoil at Pilgrim came just days after the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on May 29 granted Entergy a 20-year license extension for the elderly boiling water reactor, which first went into service in 1972. Its initial 40-year operating license was due to expire June 8; a very contentious, politically charged relicensing proceeding had been under way since 2007. The UWA’s Hurley said, “It’s despicable that after receiving a license renewal that enables the company to make $1 million a day for the next 20 years from Pilgrim, executives continue to insist upon shortchanging the hardworking men and women who run this plant and make it extremely profitable for management.”

Pilgrim sells power into the regional wholesale power pool, ISO New England. At the same time the lockout was taking place there, UWA Local 369 workers voted to approved a new contract at Boston-based distribution utility NSTAR, which supplies retail electric power and natural gas to end users in the region. The union and NSTAR agreed on a new contract on June 2.

Sources: Entergy, UWA Local 369, NRC

—Kennedy Maize (@kennedymaize) is a POWER contributing editor and executive editor of MANAGING POWER