TMI owner cutting jobs to the marrow, putting community at risk

Lancaster New Era, Commentary, 12/16/03
By Eric Joseph Epstein

The employees of Three Mile Island are an integral part of our community. Many, at great personal risk to their own health and safety, performed invaluable tasks during the defueling of Three Mile Island Unit-2.

But the current owner of TMI, Exelon, is placing these plant workers in harm's way through attrition, regionalization, forced overtime and consolidation of job functions.

It is essential that Exelon maintain adequate staffing at Three Mile Island. Since they purchased TMI, the number of workers has shrunk from 804 (1998) to 643 (2002). Contract labor, including security, has supplanted existing full-time positions, and the number of contractor and subcontractor employees has grown from 65 (2000) to 103 (2002).

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not track the number of employees at TMI. The community was told at the NRC's annual meeting in Middletown on April 9 that the number of employees at TMI was 529. When the NRC was apprised that they were off by 114 employees, they assured the community it didn't matter how many people worked at TMI based on the Commission's Performance Indicators "Report Card," TMI's Fitness for Duty Program.

TMI is heading down the same path as another Exelon plant: Oyster Creek. In 1990, Oyster Creek was owned by GPU Nuclear, and operated by 1,000 employees. Oyster Creek was sold to AmerGen, an Exelon company, for $10 million dollars on Sept. 14, 1999. According to plant spokeswoman, Gina G. Scala, today there are 440 employees at the nation's oldest operating nuclear power plant.

Exelon has reiterated its commitment to slash its labor force, and is pursuing initiatives to attain "steady state" staffing levels. Exelon's program of labor reductions is called the "Exelon Way," and is designed to eliminate 3,400 employees or 15% of its work force by the end of 2002 (Press Release, Jan. 29.)

On Aug. 6, the company announced the elimination of 10% of its work force or 1,900 positions. Not to worry, according to company spokeswoman Ann Mary Carley, the job cuts will have a "minimal" impact on nuclear operations.

Despite Exelon's emphasis on downsizing, the company somehow found the resources to fund a "golden parachute" for Corbin McNeill, Jr., the ex-chairman and former CEO of Exelon Corp. His compensation package of nearly $29.8 million last year made him the fourth highest paid CEO out of the 250 utility executives (Nuclear News, July 9.)

Our community should not be put at risk by an Illinois-based corporation intent on cutting staffing levels to the marrow. In order to maintain a healthy espirit de corps and ensure vigilance at TMI, Exelon must increase staffing levels to pre-sale levels.