Cost-cutting plan could send SRS workers home for holidays

A cost-cutting measure will send thousands of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions workers home for three holiday weeks during the remainder of 2012.

“We’ll be in limited operations during the holidays, with essential personnel only,” said Barbara Smoak, a spokeswoman for the Savannah River Site contractor.

According to a report from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, the company – which employs about 4,500 workers – is facing a fiscal 2013 budget shortfall that could be as much as $175 million.

“SRNS announced they will be dramatically reducing staff augmentation support and construction forces very soon,” the safety board’s report said, adding that the company also extended an effort to enroll more workers in voluntary separation programs.

The company “also announced they are considering plant closures for three entire, upcoming holiday weeks where workers would be required to use vacation leave or take time off without pay,” the safety board report said.

Smoak said there are no plans to close any SRS facilities, but activity during the three holiday weeks will be limited to workers needed to ensure safe operations. “We will also continue to support other contractors on the site, where appropriate,” she said.

The scaled down operations are concentrated in holiday weeks because many workers typically take time off then anyway, she said. “We already get two holidays, for example, during Thanksgiving week, so it is not a huge impact.”

Estimates of how many of the company’s 4,500 workers would be on leave at the same time are not available. “We are still determining exactly what staffing would look like under essential personnel only,” Smoak said.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the site’s largest employer, has been reducing its workforce gradually since December 2010, when the U.S. Energy Department authorized the company to eliminate up to 1,400 positions. Through August, at least 1,065 workers had left.

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