Hanford contracts approved with 4 of 5 contractors

Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldOctober 9, 2013 

Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council workers voted Wednesday to approve new contracts with four Hanford contractors, but turned down the offer by Washington River Protection Solutions, the Hanford tank farms contractor.

Contracts with CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., Mission Support Alliance, Washington Closure Hanford and Advanced Technologies and Laboratories were approved.

HAMTC announced the outcome of the votes at about 9 p.m. Wednesday, but did not release vote totals.

"We respect what members had to say," said Dave Molnaa, HAMTC president. "We will do our jobs accordingly."

HAMTC is an umbrella organization for 15 of the unions performing work at the Department of Energy's Hanford nuclear reservation and has about 2,600 workers.

HAMTC's last collective bargaining agreement ended March 31, 2012, and then was extended three times, but contractors refused to extend it beyond February. At that point, negotiations had been under way for about a year.

"This successful vote was almost two years in the making, and I'd like to thank the people on both sides of the table who worked so hard to reach this agreement," said John Fulton, president of CH2M Hill, in a statement Wednesday night. Mission Support Alliance released a similar comment, but comments from other contractors were not immediately available.

The passage of the offers made by four Hanford contractors Wednesday followed a vote on a previous proposal July 16, with workers overwhelmingly rejecting offers by all five contractors then. HAMTC leaders determined the primary reason for the failed ratification vote in July was changes to the pension program, said a memo sent by CH2M Hill to its managers last month.

CH2M Hill led negotiations for Hanford environmental cleanup contractors.

The proposal voted on in July would have reduced pension payments to workers after retirement. Workers also were unhappy with proposed wages and benefits, the memo said.

The revised collective bargaining agreement partially addresses those issues, according to the CH2M Hill memo.

The proposal voted on Wednesday would increase wage rates 2 percent for each of the next three years. Full-time workers each would receive a one-time payment of $1,000 if the contract is ratified by Oct. 11.

Employees with at least 10 years of participation in the Hanford pension plan would see no change to their pension benefits. However, workers with fewer years in the program would have their benefits reduced. New hires would not be eligible for the pension program, but could participate in a 401(k) plan.

A Hanford-wide seniority program and separation pay would be maintained under the collective bargaining agreement proposal.

However, in a move not popular with workers, contractors could require mandatory overtime.

The proposal represented the best contract that would be offered, though it is not the "fair settlement" that had been sought, Molnaa said before the vote.

"There is simply nothing more that can be done to enforce our position other than the ultimate battle -- to conduct a strike," he said then. "However, it is very likely that such action would prove to be unsuccessful and would not change the current circumstances at all."

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

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