Plant Vogtle asking employees to voluntarily stay home amid COVID-19 outbreak

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Representatives at Plant Vogtle tell WJBF they have seen an increase recently in positive COVID-19 cases among the workforce at Units 3 and 4 with over 40 positive test results so far. As a result, Georgia Power is asking for volunteers among the craft worker ranks to stay at home during this COVID crisis.

This is in addition to those employees who have already personally chosen not to come to work because of health concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

After reaching out to ask whether these volunteers who step up and help achieve Georgia Power’s 20% work force reduction goal will still be paid or furloughed, WJBF was told that these cuts will not be achieved through medical furloughs nor paid leave.

WJBF is still waiting to hear whether there will be the offer of some type of agreed-upon commitment on the part of any of the involved companies to rehire or compensate, at any future point in time, those employees who voluntarily leave the project because of the current national health crisis.

The force reduction is not expected to not affect Georgia Power’s deadlines for the completion of Units 3 and 4.

Below is a statement from Georgia Power:

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our nation, the Vogtle 3 &4 construction site is no exception. Our workforce on the site has seen the impact and the number of positive COVID-19 cases on site have increased in the last several days.  Above all else, the safety and well-being of our workforce is our top priority and we have implemented recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as continued to increase our social distancing measures. 

While a number of our workers are already personally choosing to stay off-site due to COVID-19, project management has asked for an approximate 20% reduction to the craft workforce through a self-selection process. The mitigating action is expected to help increase workforce productivity and reduce absenteeism. It is also intended to help lessen the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce by allowing for increased social distancing and further facilitating the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While a reduction in workforce was expected as unit 3 neared construction completion, and this action is accelerated from that original timeline, fluctuations in the workforce levels are normal in any construction project of this size, especially as the project nears completion. The current measures taken to protect the health of the workers and communities have caused the project to accelerate the transition to a more streamlined workforce for the time being. This decision was made after much consultation with the co-owners, building trades, Bechtel and others.

Going forward, site leadership remains focused on protecting the safety and health of workers at the Vogtle 3 & 4 site, and comprehensive measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will remain in place. These proactive measures include worker distancing strategies, including adjusted break schedules, additional mobile facilities to add more distance between individuals onsite and suspending large group meetings and gatherings, along with an expanded onsite medical clinic.

John Kraft, Georgia Power

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