The clock struck midnight on Saturday, August 31.
A minute later, at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 1, a number of security guards at Xcel Energy’s Monticello nuclear power plant were escorted off the job.
The contracts of union shift leaders employed by large security firm G4S had expired, according to Josh Haider, president of United Security Professionals Local 2.
The security guards were subsequently replaced by non-union workers.
Haider said 20 to 30 shift leaders were locked out of their jobs at midnight on Aug. 31. The Union’s contract originally expired in January, 2019 and has been previously been extended twice.
Earlier this week, security workers were picketing on County Road 75 near the Monticello nuclear power plant.
They were raising awareness of their plight and the fight for their future.
The issue between the security guards and their employer, G4S is primarily centered around healthcare benefits, Haider said.
When the guards’ contract expired at midnight on Aug. 31, so did the generous healthcare plan the guards had been living under for decades.
During negotiations of a new contract, United Security Professionals Local 2 leaderships learned that G4S sought to cut its contributions to the employee insurance program nearly in half, Haider said.
“That’s about $10,000 less in premiums per employee per year,” Haider said.
United Security Professionals Local 2 is looking to preserve for its members the benefits they already have, he said.
That includes Randy Sand, the longest tenured employee working the security detail.
Come next month, the Cold Spring man will have worked at the Monticello nuclear power plant for 40 years.
“I’ve driven up and down this road between Cold spring and Monticello in rain, sleet, and snow for 40 years,” Sand said as he looked toward Interstate 94.
Sand says that in 40 years of employment he has called in sick about five times and can count the number of times he’s been late to work on one hand.
“I’m befuddled that this is what they think of my loyalty,” Sand said of G4S.
“I never thought that this would ever happen,” he said of the lockout.
G4S is looking to get richer rather than looking out for the good of its employees, Sand said.
Xcel Energy is not involved in the negotiations. The negotiaons are between G4S -which contracts with Xcel- and members of the United Security Professionals Local 2.
However, Xcel Energy has taken steps to ensure that the lockout and negotiation process between G4S and Local 2 does not impact plant safety, security or operations.
Most visibly, the company has established a temporary system for accessing the plant that ensures G4S employees continue to have access to the site through one entrance, company oficials said. Another entrance provides Xcel employees and visitors the access they need through a separate gate which avoids requiring them to cross a Local 2 picket line.
“The Monticello nuclear plant serves our Upper Midwest customers with affordable carbon-free energy and supports thousands of jobs and businesses in the region. We will continue to operate the plant with the highest level of safety and security and we hope that both parties are able to resolve this situation quickly, the company said in a statement to the Monticello Times.
Haider said the United Security Professionals Local 2 workers deserve good wages and benefits.
“This is a high-risk job, just like a police officer or a firefighter. If something happens here at the plant, its our lives that are on the line,” Haider said.
The Union is doing nothing more than watching out for its members and their families.
“Our insurance is the glue that keeps us together,” Haider said.
Reach Jeff Hage at firstname.lastname@example.org