RICHLAND — Hanford workers received a reprieve Wednesday as furlough and temporary layoff notices were expected to start going out about noon.
Instead, employees received a message from Department of Energy management saying that if Congress passes a spending bill this week, no furloughs and temporary layoffs are expected.
By noon, news from Washington, D.C., was promising that Congress could come to an agreement to reopen the federal government and prevent a default by the Treasury.
Department of Energy officials in Washington, D.C., told Hanford contractors not to issue furlough and layoff notices Wednesday morning, said Dave Molnaa, president of the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council, an umbrella group for 15 Hanford unions. He had been told Monday to expect notices to be issued Wednesday for 2,300 HAMTC workers.
The Tri-City Development Council estimated that about 80 percent of Hanford’s 8,500 union and nonunion workers would be furloughed, leaving the minimum number of workers DOE requires to maintain safe and secure conditions at the nuclear reservation.
Hanford also has 1,500 to 2,000 subcontractor workers whose jobs would not be covered by federal money if the shutdown continued, according to TRIDEC.
DOE and its contractors have publicly released no specific information about Hanford, but TRIDEC and HAMTC believed the furloughs would start Oct. 21.
“We understand the uncertainties you are experiencing due to the ongoing lapse in appropriation,” said the memo sent to Hanford employees.
Letting workers know what to expect is a top priority, but the situation in Congress is changing by the hour, it said. Unless told otherwise by a manager, employees of Hanford contractors should continue to report to work as usual, it said.
Some employees already had been told informally by managers that they should expect to be furloughed.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory already has sent out furlough or temporary layoff notices to some workers. Fewer than 40 staff have been issued furlough notices or were taking vacation in lieu of furloughs as of Tuesday.
Lab managers Wednesday were watching the happenings in Washington, D.C., closely, and had made no decisions, according to the lab.