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Friday, June 21, 2024

Otwock, nuclear reactor in Świerk. Employees threaten to leave

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A significant part of the specialists who work on the Maria reactor are threatening to leave due to low wages, RMF FM radio informs. Thanks to the only nuclear reactor in Poland, radioisotopes used in oncological therapies are produced.

The Maria reactor operates in Otwock near Warsaw, in the Świerk district. As indicated by RMF FM radio, the reactor produces a radioisotope called molybdenum-99 used in nuclear medicine and iodine-131, which is used in the treatment of thyroid cancer. Maria supplies dozens of hospitals across the country. However, this supply chain may soon come to a halt as workers dedicated to operating the reactor want to leave due to very low wages.

They can earn much more in private companies

Radio RMF FM reports that a total of 100 people work at the reactor together with administration employees. “According to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement of the National Center for Nuclear Research, of which the Maria reactor is a part, a senior specialist can earn a maximum of PLN 5,200 gross. Shift managers and department managers work in this position. The vast majority, i.e. specialists – earn a maximum of PLN 4,800 gross, which is just over 3.5 thousand per hand.

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In an interview with the radio, employees indicate that they will find a better-paying job without any problems. – When it comes to the market and typical engineering positions, private companies pay two or even three times more than here. Employees are very close to stop looking at what they are doing and how important their work is from the point of view of national security and the need for radioisotopes. And at some point, the opportunity to earn more money and take care of yourself and your own family will take over – one of the employees tells RMF FM radio.

“These people just don’t exist”

Mass departures of employees pose a threat of paralysis. – What we produce disintegrates within a few days, so it cannot be stored. If the reactors don’t work, the patients won’t get their therapy. For example, the radioisotopes that we produce are used to diagnose bones or the work of the heart or the work of the circulatory system, and even for oncological diagnostics. If we do not produce these semi-finished products, it will probably be possible to obtain them somewhere in Western Europe or other places in the world. It’s just a matter of how much, admits an employee of the reactor in an interview with RMF FM.

The broadcaster found out that on April 5, the employees of the Department of Nuclear Facilities Operation submitted a letter to the secretariat of the National Center for Nuclear Research, demanding “a substantial indexation of the salaries of the employees of the Maria reactor”.

Specialists servicing “Maria” also receive job offers from state-owned companies, where they can also earn much more. – The specificity of the job is such that it is very difficult to recruit an external employee who already has qualifications. It almost borders on a miracle, because such people simply do not exist. They used to be educated in nucleonic techniques, at the moment they are mostly graduates of technical universities, majors such as mechanics, electrical engineering, mechatronics, physics and related fields. And in fact, these people, coming here, educate themselves almost from scratch. To work in any of the independent positions, you need to spend at least three years of work to educate yourself, the employee points out in an interview with the radio. And he emphasizes that this results from the provisions of the atomic law.

Climate resort in contact with NCBJ

Marek Pawłowski, head of the communication and promotion office at the National Center for Nuclear Research, admitted in an interview with the radio that “talks with trade unions are currently underway”. – We hope that the agreement – within the funds that the institute is able to allocate for this purpose, without a major threat to financial liquidity this year – will allow for indexation in the coming months – said Pawłowski. He made a reservation, however, that the valorization proposal would not be in line with what employees expected, and therefore would not be equated to the average earnings for the Warsaw agglomeration, taking into account the industry, education and positions. To meet this demand, support from the state budget is needed.

A radio reporter from RMF FM asked Pawłowski whether the reactor could be shut down permanently if some of the employees left. – The reactor always works in cycles of several days, and their length and frequency can be reduced. The scenario that can be feared is the limitation of the reactor’s operating time due to the lack of appropriate staffing, admitted the NCBJ representative. Reducing the reactor’s operating time means less substances needed to treat patients are produced.

In an e-mail to the editorial office of RMF FM, the Ministry of Climate and Environment informed that “it is in constant contact with the management of the NCBJ and takes actions based on its competences in order to solve the wage needs of employees of the Department of Nuclear Facilities Operation”. “Additional possibilities are being analyzed that could remedy this situation. Pursuant to the Act on Research Institutes, the director of the institute independently implements the personnel policy. However, the rules for remunerating institute employees are set out in the company’s collective labor agreement or in the company’s remuneration regulations. In the case of developing a strategic plan for MARIA reactor by the Director of the National Center for Nuclear Research, the Ministry of Climate and Environment may supervise its implementation within the scope of its supervisory competences” – indicated the ministry.

Main photo source: TVN24 Business and the World

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