Hundreds learn they will lose jobs at Hanford

Two weeks before the end of the fiscal year at Hanford, hundreds of workers learned Monday that their names are on the list for previously announced layoffs.

Combined, the job cuts among Hanford cleanup contractors this fiscal year appear to total 1,825, most of them this month, which is slightly fewer than expected.

The year started with about 12,000 employees at Hanford. In addition, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is laying off 45 workers.

Those totals do not include Hanford layoffs in fiscal 2012, which include job cuts planned as early as mid-October. In a worst-case scenario, cuts throughout fiscal 2012 would cost more than 1,000 more jobs.

"This is just tough for anyone," said Deanna Smith, spokeswoman for Mission Support Alliance. "We hope workers will take advantage of WorkSource and employee assistance."

Hanford employees who are laid off receive a severance package that includes one week's pay for every year worked, up to a maximum of 20 years.

Most of the Hanford layoffs in fiscal 2011, which ends Sept. 30, are linked to the end of federal economic stimulus money. However, a mix of new and experienced workers are losing their jobs.

CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. announced in January that it planned to cut about 1,350 jobs by the end of September and that is approximately the final tally.

The reduction includes 910 nonunion and129 union workers who are being laid off, said Dee Millikin, spokeswoman. The additional job cuts to reach 1,350 include people who quit since January, corporate employees who were reassigned and about 125 subcontractor employees whose assignments ended.

On Monday, CH2M Hill started processing laid-off workers, although they will continue to be paid through the end of the month. But with so many leaving at once, the processing could not wait until the final day, Millikin said.

Nonunion workers being laid off at CH2M Hill were given 60 days notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN Act, and union workers were required to be notified by Monday.

Layoff decisions were based on the mix of positions needed for work in the coming fiscal year and, for nonunion employees, a rating and ranking process.

At Hanford, layoffs among union employees are based on seniority sitewide and under a "bump and roll" policy some union employees retaining their jobs will be moving to jobs at different cleanup contractors.

CH2M Hill received the majority of the Hanford American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, about $1.3 billion of the $1.96 billion for Hanford, and has the most layoffs. Most of the money, received over the past 21/2 years, will be spent by the end of next week.

CH2M Hill is responsible for central Hanford cleanup and ground water protection and cleanup at Hanford.

Mission Support Alliance announced 276 layoffs Monday and notified those employees. It had approval by the Department of Energy to lay off up to 300 employees, with the last day of work Sept. 29.

Layoffs were based on the mix of positions needed in the coming fiscal year, Smith said.

There are 55 voluntary layoffs, leaving 221 involuntary layoffs.

Of those, 193 were union employees. About 65 of those had enough seniority to continue to work at Hanford under the bump and roll process, displacing union employees elsewhere at the site.

Although Mission Support Alliance did not receive any economic stimulus money, it provides services sitewide, including utilities, security, information technology and training, and must adjust to work planned by the other contractors at the site and their reduced need for services.

In addition to the 276 employees losing their jobs at the end of the month, Mission Support Alliance laid off 125 workers in March.

Washington River Protection Solutions announced Monday that it was cutting 76 union positions as of the end of this month as the first phase of its previously announced layoffs. The second phase will include nonunion workers who will be laid off Oct. 13.

The contractor, which manages the Hanford tank farms, said last month that up to 475 union and nonunion workers could be laid off depending on the fiscal 2012 budget, which Congress has yet to pass. It's too soon to say how many workers total will be laid off by mid-October, said spokesman Jerry Holloway.

Washington River Protection Solutions hired Recovery Act workers, but DOE had projected increasing budgets for the tank farms that would allow it to retain those workers permanently. Now Congress is not expected to approve the amount requested by DOE for tank farm work.

DOE has agreed to allow 1,100 layoffs in fiscal 2012 among Hanford cleanup contractors linked to the annual budget and the tank farm layoffs are among them. No other Hanford cleanup contractor has yet taken advantage of those allowed layoffs for fiscal 2012.

Washington Closure Hanford, which is responsible for Hanford cleanup along the Columbia River, announced no layoffs in fiscal 2011 and none linked to the 2012 budget. However, it plans to cut 210 jobs in fiscal 2012 as it starts to ramp down for the end of its contract in 2015.

At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory45 workers are being laid off. The DOE national lab had expected to make the cuts by the end of the month through voluntary layoffs, but about a third of the layoffs are involuntary, said PNNL spokeswoman Anne Haas.

The reduction is necessary after the recent completion of the Capability Replacement Laboratory project. The $300 million project lasted several years and was the largest construction project in the lab's 46-year history.

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