Hanford contractor plans to cut 210 jobs

Washington Closure Hanford and its prime subcontractor will cut up to 210 jobs in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 under a work force restructuring plan approved by the Department of Energy.

The Hanford contractor last month told its employees about its general plans to reduce jobs as work is completed, but announced the number of jobs to be cut in fiscal 2012 to employees Wednesday after DOE approved its plan.

"This is all due to work coming to an end, not funding limitations," said Todd Nelson, Washington Closure spokesman.

Washington Closure has DOE's first and only closure contract at Hanford.

When it expires Sept. 30, 2015, DOE expects most work to be done on cleaning up Hanford along the Columbia River. There would be no need to rebid the contract and roll workers over to a new company, as usually happens when Hanford's environmental cleanup contracts expire.

The end of the contract will require a gradual ramp down of work as different projects are completed over four years. About 900 people now work for Washington Closure and its prime subcontractor, Eberline Services.

Washington Closure plans to offer a chance annually for employees to volunteer for layoffs before making involuntary layoffs.

The voluntary layoffs will be limited to employees performing certain jobs to make sure Washington Closure retains the right mix of skills to finish environmental cleanup. More details, including the job classifications eligible for voluntary layoffs, should be available in the coming weeks.

Laid-off employees may receive severance payments and may be eligible for medical coverage under the DOE program for displaced workers.

Washington Closure outlined general plans for nonunion employees in meetings last month. Union employees are covered by separate contract agreements.

Washington Closure plans to notify individual workers in the fiscal quarter before their work ends. That will give workers at least three months to make plans.

When workers are notified their job is ending, each will be assigned a "closure coach," who will answer questions about issues such as retirement, education costs and jobs that might be available through Washington Closure parent companies URS, Bechtel and CH2M Hill.

Washington Closure is about six years into a 10-year contract worth $2.3 billion to clean up the 220 square miles of Hanford called the river corridor.

"Over the past six years we have made tremendous progress," Neil Brosee, Washington Closure president, said in a message to employees Wednesday. "We have completed the cleanup of more than 200 waste sites on the Hanford site, demolished 166 buildings and reduced the footprint of the site by approximately 60 square miles."

About 75 percent of the work under the contract is completed, although Washington Closure still has some challenging work ahead.

The Washington Closure job cuts are unrelated to up to 1,775 jobs expected to be cut this year by Sept. 30 as most of Hanford's $1.96 billion in economic stimulus money is spent.