Union offers plan to help save Hanford jobs

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldMarch 7, 2013 

Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council workers at three Hanford contractors are being asked to consider taking time off to help save the jobs of fellow workers.

The three Department of Energy contractors plan a combination of furloughs, or time off, for nonunion workers and layoffs for union workers to cut costs because to forced federal budget cuts, or sequestration.

Collective bargaining agreements prevent contractors from furloughing HAMTC workers, leaving layoffs as the remaining option for those workers.

However, HAMTC proposed a memorandum of understanding that could save some jobs if enough HAMTC workers volunteer to take paid and unpaid leave, said Dave Molnaa, HAMTC president. A similar agreement more than eight years ago saved HAMTC jobs, helping Molnaa persuade contractors to sign on now, he said.

HAMTC is a labor organization representing 15 unions working at Hanford.

CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., Washington River Protection Solutions and Mission Support Alliance all have signed the agreement or expect to sign, committing to using the savings to preserve jobs.

CH2M Hill told its employees Wednesday that it needs to cut $29.8 million by Oct. 1, a 16 percent reduction in its budget for the remaining seven months of fiscal 2013.

It has about 915 nonunion employees and they are expected to be required to take 160 to 200 hours of paid and unpaid time off before Oct. 1.

In addition, CH2M Hill is preparing to lay off up to 120 union workers, but is looking at options to drive than number below 100, said John Fulton, the company's president, in a message to employees. CH2M Hill has about 588 HAMTC workers.

In addition, CH2M Hill is canceling or reducing work in subcontracts as it ramps down to save money, the memo said. Other cost cutting includes a hiring freeze, limiting purchases and an end to most travel, nonrequired training and attendance at conferences.

CH2M Hill is responsible for cleanup of central Hanford and contaminated groundwater.

Washington River Protection Solutions told workers earlier this week that it needed to cut $40 million, or 18 percent of its budget through Oct. 1. It plans five-week furloughs for its 904 nonunion workers. It also announced it expects to need to lay off 125 of its 613 union employees.

Cuts might need to be deeper if other cost-cutting measures do not save as much money as anticipated, workers were told.

Washington River Protection Solutions manages the Hanford tank farms, where 56 million gallons of radioactive waste are held in underground tanks.

Mission Support Alliance also is anticipating a combination of furloughs for nonunion employees and layoffs of union employees.

However, the number of HAMTC employees who could be laid off is undecided. Mission Support Alliance provides services sitewide, such as training and information technology, and must adjust staffing for sequestration and for reduced services needed as other contractors cut their spending.

Washington Closure Hanford has announced no plans for furloughs or layoffs tied to sequestration and is not participating in the memorandum of understanding with HAMTC. It gradually has been ramping down employment as environmental cleanup nears completion along the Columbia River.

Bechtel National is waiting for more DOE guidance, as it waits to hear how much money it will have to spend for the remainder of the year. It is building the vitrification plant, which is required to start treating tank waste for disposal in 2019.

Bechtel's planning is complicated by the lack of a 2013 DOE budget passed by Congress. Spending now is based on a continuing resolution expiring March 27 with spending levels tied to fiscal 2012. However, that included money for construction of the vitrification plant's Pretreatment Facility, which is on hold this year.

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