MONTICELLO, Minn. (WCCO) – Around the clock security is vital to Xcel Energy's Monticello nuclear plant. But for the past six days, security guard shift leaders have been replacement workers.
They were brought in several weeks ago in anticipation of a lockout resulting from a labor dispute involving unionized staff.
"Through the history of our union we've sacrificed a lot to have the plan that we do," explained security guard Josh Haider.
Haider is president of Local 2 of the United Security Professionals union. Roughly 30 of its members were sent home last Saturday when their extended contract expired.
They are employed by an Xcel sub-contractor, G4S which provides security services to the plant. London-based G4S was demanding changes to workers health coverage. To save expense it was proposing to slash health care premium contributions and switch health care providers from Medical to Blue Cross Blue Shield.
To each employee, it would have resulted in an additional $10,000 premium contribution.
"These guys had the courage to stand up for what is theirs, fair wages, health insurance and end up coming out of this with a good deal," added Haider.
But with the clock ticking and pressure for resolution mounting, the two sides agreed to a deal on Friday morning. The three-year contract maintains current health coverage and will extend cost of living wage increases.
It was the first time that 40-year guard Randy Sand was ever locked out of a job.
"What do you do? You press on and rely on the strength of your fellow members here and strength of the community and other unions and stuff and press on," said Sand.
While not involved in the negotiations Xcel Energy released a statement stating that it is glad the dispute is resolved. Xcel further reassured the public that it maintained the highest level of security at the plant during the week-long lockout.
"We're ready to roll up our sleeves and get back to work," added Haider.
The guard shift leaders will return to work early Monday morning and expect a ratification vote within 16 days.
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