CH2M Hill seeks wage, benefit cuts from Hanford union workers

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldNovember 30, 2012 

CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. has proposed a wage cut in addition to benefit cuts for Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council workers as organized labor negotiations continue.

The wage cut proposal was made Wednesday after negotiations got down to business after the presidential election. The proposed wage cut is in addition to cuts on other matters the Hanford contractor put on the table 11 months ago and has stuck to in ongoing negotiations, said Dave Molnaa, HAMTC president.

HAMTC represents about 3,000 Hanford union workers, including about 720 CH2M Hill workers. Collective bargaining is under way between HAMTC and Hanford contractors CH2M Hill, Washington River Protection Solutions, Washington Closure Hanford, Mission Support Alliance and Advanced Technologies and Laboratories.

CH2M Hill, which performs groundwater and central Hanford environmental cleanup for the Department of Energy, is the first contractor to make an economic proposal, which covers wages.

It's of particular concern to HAMTC because CH2M Hill also presented the first proposal covering noneconomic issues and most other contractors -- excluding Washington Closure -- then made nearly identical proposals, Molnaa said.

CH2M Hill is proposing no wage increase for 2012, a 4 percent decrease for 2013 and no wage increases for 2014 and 2015. All employees on traditional pension programs would have benefits frozen and would be moved to an enhanced 401(k) retirement savings plan.

HAMTC has had hardball contract proposals in previous years and has been able to meet contractors in the middle, but this goes beyond that, Molnaa said.

"This is not hardball. It's an insult to workers," he said.

The proposal will mean less money for workers and more money kept by the corporation, he said.

But it's the workers who take on the physical risk, wearing respirators and working to clean up hazardous chemical and radioactive waste, he said.

"We put ourselves in harm's way every day in cleaning up this nation's nuclear legacy, and this is the thanks we get for it," he said.

CH2M Hill declined to discuss details of the negotiations while they are continuing, but said in a statement that it would continue to negotiate in good faith in pursuit of a fair and equitable solution. The contractor and HAMTC have extended the current collective bargaining agreement until Feb. 2.

CH2M Hill recognizes that the bargaining unit work force is key to the success of the project, the contractor said in a statement. Performing work safely remains CH2M Hill's highest priority, the statement said.

However, Molnaa said CH2M Hill is proposing revised safety language that reduces HAMTC's ability to monitor the contractor's safety practices to help reduce the potential for worker injury or death.

In other proposed changes, more work would be given to temporary employees doing full-time work without benefits.

Union workers would lose some seniority and continuity of service advantages. Now, union workers may automatically transfer to a different Hanford contractor as the workload of each contractor increases and decreases periodically.

Transfers among contractors would be eliminated and seniority no longer would be calculated based on service across the Hanford nuclear reservation, according to HAMTC.

Employees would see reduced compensation while injured and have substantial increases in medical and dental health insurance costs, according to HAMTC. HAMTC would no longer participate on the Health Care Committee.

HAMTC also no longer would have sole authority to settle jurisdictional work assignment disputes between different crafts and the HAMTC Grievance Committee no longer would be able to function with the contractors, according to HAMTC.

Overtime would become mandatory, and the practice of paying certain overtime at double pay rather than time and a half would end. Workers now may be eligible for double time for Sunday work or for work past 12 hours in a single day.

The negotiations are between the contractors and the union, said Geoff Tyree, spokesman for the Department of Energy. However, DOE does make a determination of allowable costs for DOE reimbursement in collective bargaining agreements.

"DOE expects our contractors to engage in good-faith negotiations with the union to resolve issues at the bargaining table," Tyree said.

DOE will meet periodically with union officials to discuss their concerns, but DOE cannot mediate or resolve contractor and union disputes nor can it take sides on issues being actively bargained, he said.

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