Energy Department freezes salaries of SRS workers

The U.S. Department of Energy will freeze salaries and halt bonus pool increases for as many as 75,000 workers at 28 sites across the U.S., including more than 10,000 of the 13,000 employees associated with Savannah River Site in Aiken County.

After President Obama's recent proposal for a two-year pay freeze for all civilian federal workers, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a decision Friday to freeze salaries for site and facility management contractor workers who supervise day-to-day operations at certain DOE sites and facilities, including national laboratories.

Jim Giusti, an Energy Department spokesman at SRS, said employees at Savannah River Site, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, Savannah River Remediation and Wackenhut Services will be affected by the pay freeze.

The previously announced federal pay freeze affects about 400 federal employees at the site, he said.

Chu said the freeze at the DOE's 28 sites and facilities will be effective Jan. 1. For sites that have already approved and implemented increases, the freeze would begin at the beginning of their next salary increase cycle and also last two years.

"As our nation continues to recover from these challenging economic times, households and small businesses across the country are making sacrifices," Chu said. "In this spirit, we are asking our contractor employees, who are doing important research, operations, and environmental cleanup work, to join the federal work force in playing a part."

Salary freezes are just part of the personnel picture at SRS, where the main management contractor -- Savannah River Nuclear Solutions -- is planning to reduce its work force by as many as 1,400 positions by August. So far, more than 300 employees have applied for voluntary separation programs, and layoffs are expected to begin early next year.

Employees who choose voluntary separation are offered the same severance benefits as those chosen later for layoffs, according to company officials.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.