DOE employers at Hanford face pink slips from sequestration

Tri-City HeraldMarch 19, 2013 

Hanford workers to be laid off because of budget cuts caused by sequestration should begin being notified Monday.

Department of Energy contractors were continuing to work on adjusted budgets late last week, including the number of layoffs that would be required.

More union than nonunion employees face job losses because collective bargaining agreements prevent contractors from forcing them to take time off, or furloughs, leaving layoffs as the remaining option for those workers.

However, the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council, which represents 15 unions working at Hanford, negotiated a memorandum of understanding with several Hanford contractors that allows HAMTC workers to volunteer for paid and unpaid leave. If enough volunteer, some HAMTC jobs could be saved.

The deadline for signing up for voluntary leave was Thursday. With Friday a day off for most of Hanford, information on how many jobs have been saved is not available yet.

Hanford contractors continued to update their employees last week as they learned more about sequestration impacts.

CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. told its employees that it expected to notify the Hanford Atomic Metals Trade Council that 73 union positions would be cut. Those would include jobs for nuclear chemical operators, stationary operating engineers, electricians, plumbers/steamfitters, insulators, radiological control technicians and chemical technicians.

HAMTC reductions are based on seniority, with workers laid off at one contractor eligible to claim the jobs of less-senior HAMTC workers at other contractors in a "bump and roll" system.

In addition, up to 10 nonunion employees are expected to be laid off at CH2M Hill. Other nonunion employees are expected to be required to take 160 to 200 hours of paid and unpaid time off by Oct. 1, the start of a new federal fiscal year.

Washington Closure Hanford told its employees last week that it expected to lay off about 20 workers because of sequestration.

It has not announced a furlough for nonunion employees. It has been gradually scaling back staff as it prepares for the completion of most cleanup along the Columbia River in fall 2015.

As part of that gradual reduction, 16 employees are expected to leave Washington Closure in April in a cutback unrelated to sequestration.

But because of the sequestration, Washington Closure expects a significant change in personnel this spring, with up to 100 of its union workers being replaced with workers with more seniority who lose jobs with other contractors.

Bechtel National told its workers last week that its situation was somewhat different from other Hanford contractors after it took actions last year to address possible sequestration. It is operating on a budget that already recognized the cuts, project director Frank Russo said in a memo.

Washington River Protection Solutions announced plans earlier this month to lay off up to 125 union employees. In addition, nonunion employees are being required to take up to five weeks of leave.

Mission Support Alliance has had the toughest job in calculating needed cutbacks, and numbers continued to change last week.

It not only must adjust to a reduced budget, but also is expected to make additional cuts based on the plans of other contractors. It provides sitewide support services at Hanford. Cutbacks in areas such as training, plus layoffs and furloughs across the site, reduce the amount of service it needs to provide.

It is expected to announce a combination of furloughs and layoffs.

Layoff notifications that are distributed at Hanford Monday generally give two weeks notice. Union workers in the bump and roll report to their new jobs April 1. Often those transfers require job-specific training and medical clearance before workers may start work on their new tasks.

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