Friday was last day for many plant employees

October 18, 2013
Friday was the last day on the job for most of the workers at FirstEnergy Corp’s Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station on the banks of the Monongahela River. - Bob Niedbala / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

CARMICHAELS – For the bulk of employees at FirstEnergy’s Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell power plants, Friday was the last day on the job.

The company laid off 110 employees at the two plants, said Stephanie Walton, FirstEnergy spokeswoman. Another 78 workers, 26 at Mitchell and 52 at Hatfield’s Ferry, will remain on the job through December to complete final shutdown activities at the plants, she said.

FirstEnergy announced in July it would deactivate the two coal-fired plants, citing the weak demand for electricity, low electricity prices and the costs of bringing the plants into compliance with environmental regulations.

The company also said it would attempt to place employees at the two plants in other jobs within the company. Walton said Friday 60 employees from the plants have been reassigned to other FirstEnergy operations.

None of the reassigned workers are union employees, she said.

First Energy has negotiated with the Utility Workers Union of America for a company-wide contract for the last seven months. Of the 251 employees at Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell, about 170 are UWUA members.

In its last contract offer, Walton said, the company indicated 142 job opportunities would be available for employees of the two plants if the contract was accepted by the union by Friday. The UWUA, however, failed to act on the agreement, Walton said.

A union spokesman could not be reached Friday for comment. It maintains the company was only using the job offer as a “bargaining chip” to extract concessions from all FirstEnergy UWUA employees.

The plants have not generated power since Oct. 6. FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young said employees who will remain until December will make sure the plants are secure and safe.

FirstEnergy does not have plans for the properties, Young said. Reopening the plants, however, is not a consideration. “That’s not a part of our current plan,” she said. “We don’t have plans to reopen them.”

The union as well as local elected officials have urged the company to keep the plants operating, citing the jobs and economic impact the plants have on the community as well as on the need for the plants’ electricity to ensure reliable electrical service.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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