Most Hanford layoffs canceled

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 22, 2014 

Hanford contractors laid off just 12 workers this week, far fewer than the 289 they were authorized to let go.

The Department of Energy had approved three Hanford contractors to lay off a total of up to 450 workers in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and some workers who volunteered for layoffs had already been released.

Up to 450 layoffs were being considered when it looked as though Hanford cleanup might be hampered by another congressional continuing resolution with flat funding for Hanford because of no federal fiscal 2014 budget. There also was the possibility of another forced federal budget cut, also called a sequester.

Instead, Congress approved a fiscal 2014 budget last week that increased spending at Hanford to about $2.2 billion, or $186 million more than was available in fiscal 2013.

Most of the possible layoffs, 350, were being considered because of budget uncertainties.

Layoffs began in December, with 161 workers approved for voluntary layoffs. Most received severance packages. That left 289 layoffs possible, with most planned for this month.

Washington River Protection Solutions, the Hanford tank farm contractor, canceled all its remaining layoffs this week. DOE had approved it for up to 250 layoffs, all linked to budget uncertainty. In December the contractor let 82 workers go through voluntary layoffs.

No more tank farm layoffs were needed after Congress approved fiscal 2014 spending at the tank farm of $520 million -- equal to the administration's budget request. Without the new budget, the tank farms could have had a budget of just $409 million.

"With final funding in place, we will be working with the (DOE) Office of River Protection to identify and implement project work using the funds," Dave Olson, the contractor president, said in a memo to employees.

CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. was approved by DOE to lay off up to 100 workers and agreed to 44 voluntary layoffs in December.

The new federal budget eliminates the need for work force reductions because of budget uncertainties, John Fulton, CH2M Hill president, said in an employee memo. However, a small number of people could be laid off in the remainder of the fiscal year if their skills are not needed for the work the contractor is assigned, he said.

CH2M Hill is responsible for central Hanford and groundwater cleanup.

The 12 people who lost their jobs this week worked for Mission Support Alliance, which provides Hanford-wide support services for DOE and the other contractors, including fire protection, security, utility service and information technology. All of the layoffs this week were for nonunion workers.

The contractor will continue to evaluate its work force through the year to make sure it has workers with the needed skills as ongoing work changes, said Deanna Hawkins, spokeswoman for the contractor.

Mission Support Alliance had been approved by DOE for up to 100 layoffs and agreed to 35 voluntary layoffs in December.

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

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