Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council workers at the Hanford tank farms approved a new collective bargaining agreement Friday by a vote of 290 to 239.
The 650 workers for contractor Washington River Protection Solutions had been given a choice of approving the proposed collective bargaining agreement or giving their authorization to proceed to a possible strike.
It was the third proposal considered by workers. Most recently, on Oct. 9, workers turned down the same proposal, but with a $1,000 signing as an incentive to ratify the agreement by Oct. 11. Workers at four other Hanford contractors voted to approve the agreement Oct. 9.
"It's a bittersweet victory," said Dave Molnaa, HAMTC president, Friday night. "We would have preferred a better contract. But we've got a contract and we are going to conduct business."
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Washington River Protection Solutions said in a statement that it was pleased with the collective bargaining agreement approval and thanked the bargaining teams on both sides for their diligence and professionalism in negotiations.
"We look forward to a renewed focus by all of our employees on our important tank waste cleanup mission," the statement said.
The HAMTC negotiations committee had recommended members approve the proposed agreement after "considerable and painful deliberations," Molnaa said in a letter to members before the vote.
After the failed vote in October, HAMTC proposed changes to the offer, including eliminating mandatory overtime and including a $2,500 signing bonus since no wage increase was offered for 2012.
Washington River Protection Solutions rejected those changes and came back with a proposed agreement with no guaranteed 40-hour work week, no provisions for Hanford-wide seniority and the ability to contract out HAMTC-certified work at will, according to HAMTC.
Getting the Oct. 9 agreement back took persuasion, but HAMTC had no choice to preserve "extremely crucial historical contract previsions," Molnaa said in the letter.
HAMTC officials believe they had exhausted all their negotiating resources, including unfair labor practice charges, legislative action, international union intervention, workplace activism and overwhelming rejection of the first two proposals.
Among the provisions of the agreement approved by workers Friday is mandatory overtime, reduction in pension benefits for some workers and no traditional pension program for new hires, although they could participate in a 401(k) plan. It would increase wage rates 2 percent for each of the next three years.
w Annette Cary: 582-1533; email@example.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews