Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council negotiators are strongly recommending its members turn down a contract proposal by Battelle for union employees at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.
HAMTC has scheduled the proposal for a vote Sept. 4 by the about 240 workers it would affect, following 18 months of negotiations. The vote is intended to provide a clearer path forward for the HAMTC negotiating committee, HAMTC members were told in a letter.
The letter called the Battelle proposal "absurd," but Battelle, which holds the contract to operate the national lab for the Department of Energy called the proposal "highly competitive."
The contract would reward staff while providing good stewardship of taxpayer money, said Battelle spokesman Greg Koller.
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Battelle is proposing no wage increase for the first three years of the proposed five-year contract, including no cost-of-living adjustments, according to HAMTC. The last two years of the contract wages would increase by at least 1.5 percent each year if Battelle and HAMTC can reach agreement then on health insurance.
The proposal would move HAMTC workers to the same pension and retirement savings plans offered to the approximately 4,000 nonunion employees at PNNL.
HAMTC workers at the national lab are under the Hanford plan, which covers the majority of HAMTC workers.
HAMTC workers at PNNL would see reduced pension benefits and have to work longer because of age restrictions on retirement benefits, according to HAMTC. Workers also would have to contribute more to a 401(k) retirement savings plan to receive a lower match than they now receive.
Workers who are at least 60 and have at least 15 years on the job would be exempt from the pension changes. However, they also would not receive a one-time payment of $7,500 being offered in the proposal to other workers as a signing bonus.
Battelle said the pension and 401(k) changes would ensure the long-term viability and affordability of the benefits program at a time that many companies are ending or freezing their pension plans.
Wages for HAMTC workers at PNNL are well above those in the Tri-City market and average 1 to 6 percent above wages paid by Hanford contractors, according to Battelle.
Wages are 13 percent to 23 percent higher than at Battelle-operated national laboratories in Long Island, N.Y.; Tennessee and Idaho, Koller said.
In 2010-12, workers received raises of 3.5 percent to 4 percent each year while other workers at PNNL had salaries frozen for much of that time, according to Battelle.
However, wages for HAMTC workers at PNNL would drop below those offered by Hanford contractors with the wage freeze proposed by Battelle, said Dave Molnaa, HAMTC president.
PNNL wages cannot be reasonably compared with those at other sites because different states and communities have different regulations and costs of living, he said.
The wages that Battelle wants to freeze are wages that it has approved in the past to attract and retain good workers, Molnaa said.
The HAMTC letter to workers called the one-time payment of $7,500 "bribe money."
It does not compensate for "elimination of your current benefits, no general wage increases, reducing your ability to provide for you and your family in the future, and being able to retire with some dignity and respect commensurate of the years of hard work and dedication you have provided to this company," the letter said.
A vote against the proposal will send a message to Battelle that the proposal is unacceptable and send negotiators back to the bargaining table, according to the letter.
-- Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; email@example.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews