CH2M Hill plans up to 400 job cuts before late September

April 13, 2012 

The Department of Energy's central Hanford contractor plans to cut up to 400 positions between now and late September, CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. told workers Thursday afternoon.

The layoffs will come in two phases with the first reduction in late June and the second in late September, said CH2M Hill President John Lehew in a memo to employees. Now CH2M Hill and its main subcontractors employ 1,807 people.

Layoffs will include union and nonunion employees. They also will include workers who are employed directly by CH2M Hill and those employed by the 11 subcontractors who have been with CH2M Hill since it took over the central Hanford environmental cleanup contract.

Workers had been waiting for information since last week when Lehew addressed rumors of coming layoffs, saying he would tell workers more as more information became available.

The staff reductions are needed in part because some work with federal economic stimulus money that carried over into the current fiscal year that began Oct. 1 now is finished, Lehew told employees.

The economic stimulus work included some decommissioning and demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant and the operations at some facilities used for waste that had been retrieved from temporary burial that now are not needed, said CH2M Hill spokeswoman Dee Millikin.

The planned reductions also are driven by a need to shift work priorities to align with DOE's 2015 Vision, Lehew told employees.

The DOE plan calls for completing most environmental cleanup along the Columbia River, knocking down the Plutonium Finishing Plant and getting systems operating for remaining ground water cleanup.

Toward that plan, CH2M Hill has finished construction of a large ground water treatment plant in central Hanford that should begin operating in a few months. It also is close to completing work related to the K Reactor basins that require use of the Cold Vacuum Drying Facility and has finished some engineering work for treatment of sludge from the K Reactor basins.

Now it needs to realign staff and their skills mix to move to the next stage of work, Millikin said. That will include operating the new central Hanford ground water treatment plant, removing all K Basin sludge and preparing the Plutonium Finishing Plant for demolition.

In addition CH2M Hill is consolidating some management positions and adjusting some administration functions.

The layoffs are in addition to about 1,320 positions cut in the last fiscal year that ended in September 2011. CH2M Hill had hired up as it did work with $1.3 billion of economic stimulus money, most of which was spent as planned by the end of September 2011. The positions that were cut included new hires and experienced workers to adjust the mix of skills needed on the central Hanford contract.

For the upcoming job cuts, CH2M Hill first will seek volunteers for layoffs. The standard Hanford severance package is expected to be offered. For many employees that means one week of pay for every year worked up to 20 years.

Some union employees who lose their jobs may be eligible to take the jobs of less-experienced employees working for other Hanford cleanup contractors.

CH2M Hill is one of several Hanford contractors cutting positions.

Bechtel National has cut 550 construction jobs during the past five months and announced plans earlier this week to cut 200 to 300 nonconstruction jobs by the end of December. Work on the vitrification plant's Pretreatment Facility has slowed, said Stacy Charboneau, deputy manager of the Office of River Protection, as the Hanford Advisory Board met Thursday in Kennewick.

The project also is adjusting to a possible annual budget of $690 million going forward. That is down from $740 million this year, which was $100 million less than requested by the Obama administration.

Mission Support Alliance has DOE approval to layoff up to 100 workers and earlier this year laid off 36 people toward that total. It's looking at the skill mix it needs going forward and more layoffs out of the total 100 are anticipated.

Washington Closure Hanford also has announced plans to cut 210 positions throughout the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 as work starts to ramp down as it works toward completion of most cleanup along the Columbia River in 2015.

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