Sequestration is stripping $104 million from Savannah River Site contractors and furloughing some hours or laying off 2,100 contract staff starting April 1. And these numbers are just the start as contractors “anticipate more severe impacts later in the year” if the Congressional stalemate is not resolved.
SRNS Furlough Breakdown• Approximately 2,000 employees will be placed on 32-hour work schedules with corresponding adjustments in pay at that time.• Employees to be notified by March 15Big Impact: Environmental Management and Savannah River National LabLittle Impact: NNSA Programs (Tritium Operations)Three 32-hour reduced work schedules, including a half hour unpaid lunch period each day: W1 M-Th 8.5 hrs/day; W2 Tu-F 8.5 hrs/day; W3 M 10.5 hrs, Tu-W 11.5 hrs/day.Q: What is a full furlough?A: A full furlough is an employee assigned to a non-duty status and will work no hours and be unpaid. Employees with accrued personal time must utilize these hours until expended. Employees without accrued time will be in an unpaid status and may be eligible for unemployment compensation.Q: Will employees be able to use vacation hours etc. to get paid as if still on a full-time schedule?A: No, employees are only allowed to use vacation hours to cover time missed when they are scheduled to work.Q: Will furloughed employees be allowed to work from home?A: No, if employees are furloughed, working from home, to include the use of electronic devices, is prohibited during the furlough period.Q: Will it be acceptable to obtain employment elsewhere while on the reduced work schedule or during the furlough period?A: Yes, as long as it does not violate any Conflict of Interest requirements.Q: Are there impacts to medical, dental and vision benefits coverage during a reduced work schedule or the full furlough period? A: Benefits coverage will not be impacted for medical, dental, vision and contributory life insurances.
According to a letter from Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman to S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, the Department of Energy is losing $1.9 billion overall this fiscal year. In total, South Carolina will lose $107 million and 2,180 jobs from DOE programs, with the lion’s share coming from SRS.
“While these reductions are unfortunate and will be damaging, the Department is doing everything within its power to protect our mission to the greatest extent possible,” Poneman wrote to Haley on Tuesday.
The majority of impacts will be to Environmental Management and Savannah River National Laboratory programs. There will only be minor implications to the National Nuclear Security Administration programs.
In select areas where work scope has been eliminated, full furloughs will begin in April. Full furloughs mean a worker will not be paid but will maintain status as employed with the contractor – including health benefits.
“Specific essential work must continue, and those associated with the work will remain on their normal work schedule,” Jim Hanna, senior vice president of corporate services for SRNS, said in a letter to staff on Tuesday. “It is our intent to notify impacted employees by March 15, 2013.”
Hanna’s organization seems to be the only contractor currently being cut.
“At this time, no layoffs or furloughs have been identified for SRR,” said Dean Campbell, public affairs manager for liquid waste contractor Savannah River Remediations. “We are still waiting on further guidance as to what the possible impacts might be.”
Beyond this initial impact, if Congress does not compromise and find budgetary common ground, the fiscal pain “would be greater.”
DOE is going all-in in the near-term, aiming to limit the immediate impact of the $85 billion across-the-board federal spending cuts.
“The Department is reallocating money from long-term to limit sequestration’s near-term impact,” Poneman writes. “The impact of prolonged or permanent sequestration, then, would be greater than described here.”
With 2,100 people facing reduced or even zero pay starting April 1, executives are describing the federal nuclear weapons complex site as facing “unprecedented times.”
One day after the initial announcement of cuts, more details, opinions and plans are emerging from management and operations contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.
“These are unprecedented times for the entire DOE complex, and these actions are happening quickly,” Hanna said. “Our intention is to minimize the impact to our workforce as much as possible. We are taking a slow and graded approach to dealing with the uncertainty surrounding our FY13 budget in anticipation of more severe impacts later in the year. If we are unable to close the gap sufficiently, we may reduce hours even further or more full furloughs will be required in additional areas.”
From Washington, D.C., Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., stood by his furloughed constituents.
“From day one, I have been concerned with the grave impacts sequestration would have on the Palmetto State’s economy and our national security,” he told the Aiken Standard on Tuesday. “As a member of Congress who represents South Carolina’s Second Congressional District, I remain committed to doing everything within my power to ensure that these issues are resolved in a way that best protects the Savannah River Site’s essential mission and the well-being of its hardworking employees.”