2010-04-21 / Front Page

Union to supply workers for Vogtle expansion

By Anne Marie Kyzer

The contractors charged with building two additional nuclear units at Plant Vogtle will look to trade unions to supply workers.

An agreement was signed last Friday by Stone and Webster Construction Inc., a subsidiary of The Shaw Group, which is providing engineering and construction services for the expansion.

Shaw has estimated that around 3,500 workers will be needed at the peak of construction and Southern Nuclear Op- erating Company has indicated that 800 additional permanent positions will be filled to operate the reactors.

Labor unions are prepared to supply those workers and provide training for local residents ready to work, according to Tom Owens, spokesperson for the Building and Construction Trades Department which is affiliated with 13 different trade unions such as electrical workers and welders.

“You really need the highest quality craft people, you can find (in a nuclear facility),” Owens said.

He added that the trade unions have a network of trained workers and an infrastructure to prepare job seekers who have no prior experience.

Kenneth Ward, president of the Augusta Building and Construction Trades Council, said the main goal of his organization will be to put people to work whether they are already part of a union or not.

“We do have a good pool of people in the area but we will have to train new people to meet the quota anticipated for this project,” he said. “There will be opportunities for people in the CSRA to come on board. We should have plenty of work for people who want to be involved in the trade unions.”

More than a dozen trade unions already have training centers in the Augusta area.

A meeting between union representatives and Stone and Webster officials is scheduled for later this week to determine if existing training facilities will be adequate or if more need to be built either on site or in the immediate vicinity, according to Owens.

More than 600 workers were hired before the agreement was signed. However, all positions filled from now on will be under the new labor agreement.

Burke County Chamber of Commerce executive director Ashley Roberts said despite the change in the hiring process, she hopes local training partnerships will continue to grow and be available for area residents. Following a recent event hosted in Waynesboro by the Richmond/Burke Job Training Authority, 28 applicants were hired from Burke County to fill around 50 available positions with the Vogtle project.

As more details about the labor agreement become available, Roberts said the chamber and its partners will adapt their approach to help more local residents gain employment.

MORE INFO ON LOCAL TRADE UNIONS

For more information on local trade unions or to learn about training, Ward may be contacted at 706-833-7729.

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