Almost 290 at Hanford to get layoff notices this week

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 18, 2012 

Close to 290 Hanford workers will receive layoff notices this week, with most receiving the bad news Monday.

The layoffs were expected, with primarily just the exact numbers to be announced and individual employees waiting to hear if they were included in the total this week.

Layoff notices this week are being handed out to 157 workers at CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., close to 120 employees of Bechtel National and its subcontractor URS, and 11 Mission Support Alliance employees.

In addition, Washington Closure Hanford is continuing its gradual ramp down of employment toward the end of its contract in 2015. It laid off fewer employees than expected in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, but plans to cut 385 positions in fiscal 2013.

CH2M Hill notified 157 workers Monday that their last day of work would be Sept. 27, the final work day of fiscal 2012. It was the second phase of a two-part layoff that started with layoffs in June and now totals 218 job cuts.

Those laid off Monday include 38 workers who volunteered to leave, bringing the total of voluntary layoffs for the contractor to 60.

The layoffs are split between 98 union workers and 120 nonunion workers. Union workers may be eligible for a "bump and roll," taking the job of a less-experienced worker elsewhere at Hanford who then is laid off.

Many CH2M Hill workers will receive the standard Hanford layoff package of one week's pay for every year worked up to 20 years. They also may be eligible for the Displaced Workers Medical Benefits Program.

CH2M Hill is making the job cuts as it wraps up work for fiscal 2012 and makes sure it has the skill mix needed in its work force for fiscal 2013. Some of the earlier layoffs also were the result of the completion of some Recovery Act work that continued into this year.

Its main focus in fiscal 2013 will be operating groundwater treatment systems, completing engineering work to remove the remainder of the radioactive sludge from the K West Basin and continuing cleanup of the Plutonium Finishing Plant.

Like CH2M Hill, Mission Support Alliance is concluding a two-part layoff. The 11 workers who will be paid through Sept. 27 bring its total layoffs to 100, the maximum earlier approved by the Department of Energy.

Mission Support Alliance provides sitewide services at Hanford, such as information technology and utilities, and is realigning its work force to adjust to changes in the overall work force at Hanford and prepare for a new budget year.

Bechtel National, which is building the vitrification plant, announced in April that it planned to lay off 200 to 300 nonconstruction workers through the end of the calendar year, after earlier reducing the number of construction workers on the project.

Monday it told employees that it would be giving 45-day notices to up to 120 employees this week. That will bring the total of employees laid off since April to close to 230.

In addition, 107 nonconstruction workers have found jobs at other Bechtel and URS projects around the world since April, and Bechtel and URS are continuing to look for transfer opportunities for workers.

Bechtel continues to do some hiring to get the mix of skills it needs in employees and has hired 42 people since April.

Construction on some parts of the vitrification plant have slowed while technical issues are resolved, and the vitrification plant budget is expected to hold steady at $690 million rather than some larger projections made earlier by DOE.

Because the vitrification plant is a construction project, its contractor and subcontractor employees are not covered by the Hanford severance package.

Washington Closure Hanford ended up cutting the jobs of 80 workers in fiscal 2012, which is fewer than previously announced.

It had expected to cut 210 jobs under a DOE-approved restructuring, and by summer had reduced that to 110 jobs. Fewer reductions were made as newly discovered contamination was found in reactor areas along the Columbia River that needed to be cleaned up.

However, next year it expects to have far more layoffs as it cuts an anticipated 385 positions as it finishes more work to clean up Hanford along the Columbia River.

Washington River Protection Solutions, the Hanford tank farm contractor, has announced no layoffs.

Hanford workers who are losing their jobs are encouraged to attend a job fair open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 11 at Washington State University Tri-Cities' Consolidated Information Center on the Richland campus.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533;

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