Hanford union negotiations continue after failed vote

Tri-City HeraldJuly 16, 2013 

— Hanford union workers overwhelmingly rejected the offers of five Hanford contractors proposing a collective bargaining agreement to the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council.

Voting ended at 8 p.m. Tuesday, with votes counted later that night.

The vote was: CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation workers, 408-2; Washington River Protection Solutions, 474 to 3; Mission Support Alliance, 452-2; Washington Closure Hanford, 263-17, and Advanced Technologies and Laboratories, 25-0.

“(Workers) will not accept substandard wages, benefits and working conditions from the contractors or DOE,” said Dave Molnaa, HAMTC president. HAMTC is an umbrella organization for 15 of the unions performing work at the Department of Energy’s Hanford nuclear reservation.

Negotiations will resume July 30.

Negotiations between HAMTC and DOE contractors began 18 months ago and grew increasingly contentious this winter. But recently the two sides agreed to a memorandum of understanding.

As part of the conditions under the memorandum, HAMTC agreed to put contractor proposals to a worker vote and to remain neutral on the offers made. That included not publicly discussing details of the offers before workers had voted. The offers proposed have been largely the same for most of the contractors, with Washington Closure the exception.

Molnaa said before the vote that the results would make clear how workers stood on offers.

Many of the offers workers considered Tuesday included no pay increase for 2012 and increases of 1.5 to 2 percent for each of the next three years, Molnaa said after the vote. Previous negotiations had resulted in a collective bargaining agreement through spring 2012.

Also under many of the current offers, workers would pay a larger percentage of their health care premiums and receive reduced benefits, Molnaa said. Workers eligible for the traditional Hanford pension plan, rather than only a 401(k)-style plan, would receive reduced payments when they retire.

In addition, overtime would become mandatory. That’s a concern because of the large amount of overtime now being worked at Hanford under the current voluntary system, Molnaa said.

CH2M Hill, which has taken the lead in negotiations among the contractors, has chosen not to discuss details of offers until a collective bargaining agreement has been signed.

Obviously, CH2M Hill is disappointed, said spokeswoman Dee Millikin. “But we are determined to stay the course and meet back at the table.”

The contractors extended the collective bargaining agreement three times since it was set to expire March 31, 2012, but then let the latest extension expire Feb. 2, 2013. The contractors chose to stop withholding union dues from worker paychecks then and stopped paying workers for time spent negotiating.

HAMTC filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over those issues. The board proposed a settlement agreement, and when contractors did not sign it, it issued a complaint.

As part of the memorandum of understanding with HAMTC, the contractors agreed to resume withholding dues and paying workers at the negotiating table. HAMTC agreed to withdraw the labor complaint, but the board has set a trial date for Oct. 29 and has the authority to decide whether to go forward with the complaint.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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