DOE offering more buyouts

RICHLAND — The Department of Energy is looking for more Hanford employees willing to accept a buyout.

The federal agency told about 400 employees at its Hanford offices in Richland on Monday that it would accept applications from eligible employees for a second round of buyouts. The deadline to apply is Feb. 4.

The offer comes two business days after DOE told its Hanford contractors that it would not approve a proposed plan for early retirements for environmental cleanup contractor employees.

Hanford contractors then told employees that about 1,600 workers likely will be laid off with severance pay before Oct. 1, which starts a new fiscal year.

Employees who work directly for DOE rather than for its contractors were given a chance last fall to apply for buyouts with a $25,000 incentive.

DOE approved 11 applications, including seven at the Richland Operations Office and four at the Office of River Protection, and those workers were gone as of Jan. 1.

That leaves 48 workers at the Richland Operations Office and 10 at the Office of River Protection who are eligible for buyouts.

The buyouts cover the positions of office automation specialists, secretaries, program analysts, general engineers, physical scientists, program assistants, property management specialists, environmental engineers and paralegals.

Details were not available Monday about the incentives for the second round of buyouts. But DOE said those eligible for retirement and early retirement would be given priority for the buyouts.

Employees approved for the buyouts would need to leave before March 12.

DOE has characterized its national buyout program as a way to address closure of small environmental cleanup sites and to streamline efforts. Buyouts also would shift some positions to lower job grades.

The 1,600 expected Hanford contractor layoffs are linked to the impending end of federal economic stimulus money. Most of the$1.96 billion that Hanford received in stimulus money should be spent by the end of September.

CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., which was assigned $1.3 billion of the work paid for with stimulus money, is making plans to cut up to 1,350 jobs before the end of September.

CH2M Hill workers who are laid off will receive one week's severance pay for every year worked up to 20 years.

* Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com