Westinghouse furloughed 870 employees in fallout from the canceled South Carolina nuclear project

Following the filing of a lawsuit alleging that Westinghouse Electric Co. violated labor laws by laying off hundreds of workers without proper notice, the bankrupt nuclear company confirmed Friday that it has furloughed 870 employees across the company.

The number represents all full-time Westinghouse employees who had been working on the VC Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina and includes 125 workers at Westinghouse’s Cranberry headquarters.

The majority of the furloughs took place at the site of the VC Summer nuclear power plant construction project. The project was canceled last week by two South Carolina utilities.

Years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, the project was expected to cost another $8 billion to complete.

In addition to the Westinghouse layoffs, thousands of contractors working on the South Carolina site also lost their jobs.

The lawsuit, filed in bankruptcy court on Thursday by Andrew Fleetwood, a field engineering manager at VC Summer, claims Westinghouse employees like him were furloughed “without being given any indication that his employment or that of his co-workers would ever recommence.”

Seeking class-action status, he is suing Westinghouse for violating the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires employers to provide at least 60 days of advance notice before a plant shutdown or a mass layoff.

Westinghouse, which has claimed that it was caught off guard by the South Carolina utilities’ decision to cancel the project, sent a letter on Thursday to its furloughed employees who had been onsite at V.C. Summer, explaining the lack of advanced notice.

“Due to the unforeseeable business circumstances of the V.C. Summer 2 & 3 project closure, Westinghouse provided as much notice as practicable given the current situation,” Westinghouse’s spokesperson Sarah Cassella said. 

She also noted that all impacted employees are “retaining their benefits and employment status while the company works through the business impact of the VC Summer decision.”

The process may take until the end of the month and any employees who received the letter that Westinghouse sent on Thursday will be permanently laid off on Aug. 31 “if no other assignment is identified for (them),” Ms. Cassella said.

The 870 workers furloughed last week are not factored into the 7 percent company-wide staff reduction that Westinghouse announced would be coming from its reorganization. 

Westinghouse employs about 12,000. In April, the company said it had about 4,500 in the Pittsburgh region.

Anya Litvak: alitvak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.

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