Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced Friday that he is freezing the salaries and bonus pool increases for federal contractor employees.
The freeze covers employees for Hanford's prime cleanup contractors. They include CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., Washington Closure Hanford, Washington River Protection Solutions and Mission Support Alliance.
It also includes about 4,600 employees at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the majority of them based in Richland.
Not included are workers at Hanford's vitrification plant. Also not included in the freeze are workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement and subcontractor workers.
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And AdvanceMed Hanford, the site's occupational medicine contractor, is not affected because of its contract.
Nationwide, the pay freeze will affect about 75,000 workers. Information on how many Tri-City employees will have pay freezes was not immediately available Friday.
The freeze starts Jan. 1, unless a worker has received a raise for fiscal 2011, which began Oct. 1. Then that employee's freeze will begin at the start of the next pay raise cycle, typically a year later.
The freeze will last two years for all covered employees regardless of when it starts, said Jen Stutsman, DOE spokeswoman.
A lot of details have yet to be worked out. Letters with details about the salary freeze are expected to be sent to Hanford contractors next week.
PNNL Director Mike Kluse said, "I realize this news is hard ... However, these are tough economic times for our nation. Others in all sectors of our economy have been or are making sacrifices, with some in our community and region taking pay cuts, mandatory furloughs or losing their jobs altogether.
"But the news will not diminish the impact our staff are making working on some of the nation's toughest challenges. I'm confident our staff will stay focused on their work, which is essential to our nation's recovery," he added.
PNNL has 4,492 employees in Richland and 438 in Sequim, Seattle, Portland and the Washington, D.C., area. But almost 300 PNNL employees will not be affected because they are in bargaining units.
President Obama already has proposed a two-year pay freeze for workers employed directly by the federal government, such as workers at the DOE Hanford Office of River Protection and Richland Operations Office.
That pay freeze has not been imposed, however, because it must be approved by Congress.
"It's in the same spirit of shared sacrifice that I am implementing a similar freeze on salary and bonus pool increases for site and facility management contractor employees, who run day-to-day operations at certain Department of Energy sites and facilities," Chu wrote in a memo to employees Friday.
The pay freeze for federal contractor employees does not require congressional approval, Stutsman said.
Obama called for the federal pay freeze as he talked about the need for broad sacrifice to get the federal deficit under control, Chu wrote. If small businesses and families are tightening their belts, government should do the same, Chu wrote, quoting Obama.
The proposed pay freeze for federal government employees -- not including contractor employees -- is predicted to save $2 billion for the remainder of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and $28 billion over the next five years, Chu wrote.
"As our nation continues to recover from these challenging economic times, and we work to address the massive deficits we inherited, I am asking our contractor staff, who represent the best and brightest in their fields, to join the federal work force in playing a part," Chu wrote.