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Strickland fights for plant pension plan

WASHINGTON - In his efforts to help workers at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (GDP), Congressmen Ted Strickland successfully inserted language into the energy bill in Congress that will protect worker pensions and benefits as new contractors take over remediation and infrastructure services at the site.

"This is simply an issue of fairness," Strickland said regarding the amendment.

"The Department of Energy is not acting to protect these workers, so Congress must.

The passage of my amendment is great news for the workforce at the Piketon plant, but it is far from the last word."

The amendment forces the Secretary of Energy to continue doing what has been done historically by ensuring that contract and subcontract workers at both the Portsmouth and Paducah GDPs will continue to be eligible to participate in or transfer into the existing pension and health care benefit plans as the contractor changeover occurs.

For example, in 1998, when Bechtel Jacobs was awarded the prime cleanup contract at Portsmouth and Paducah, the parties involved contributed to the development of a multiple-employer pension plan and health system to ease the transition to a new contractor.

These multiple plans made it possible for employees to work for multiple contractors or subcontractors over time without losing benefits each time he or she changed employers.

and to shift from USEC to Bechtel Jacobs without penalty.

Today's amendment would continue that system.

Strickland worked with Republican Congressmen Ed Whitfield (R-KY) to get the amendment attached to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 as the legislation works its way through the Energy and Commerce Committee, on which the Congressmen sit.

The amendment will also affect workers at the Paducah GDP. The overall legislation must now be passed by the full House of Representatives as well as the Senate and be accepted by the President.

"Today's successful efforts were a first step, but an important step," Strickland noted.

"I will continue to fight to make sure these worker protections stay in the bill as it moves through the legislative process."

The eligible workers would include those doing cleanup at Portsmouth working for USEC who are already vested in the Multiple Employer Pension Plan, and USEC hourly employees.