With the changing of contractors and combining the management of the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons plants, many workers feared that the emphasis on saving money would mean lost jobs and reduced benefits. Well, it appears that both of those results are going to happen, although the new contractor — Consolidated Nuclear Security — has strongly stated that neither is taking place solely to help CNS meet its commitment to save the government more than $3 billion over the next decade.
CNS President and CEO Jim Haynes said the job reductions are about right-sizing the workforces to handle the operations, and he said he expects them to be achieved entirely through the Voluntary Separation Programs in Tennessee and Texas.
As regards the benefit packages, Haynes said changes have to be made because both Y-12 and Pantex are out of compliance with DOE Order 350.1 According to responses from Haynes and the National Nuclear Security Administration, the plans at both plants significantly exceed the average benefit value for contractors and comparable companies that are analyzed to establish this baseline.
“The requirement is that you can’t exceed 105 percent of the BenVal average,” Haynes said. He said the benefit plan CNS is submitting to NNSA will be an effort to “normalize” the benefit packages at Y-12 and Pantex.
“Our goal is to get it down to 105 percent so we’re compliant,” he said.
Y-12 and Pantex apparently have been out of compliance for some time. Haynes said some changes had been made but not enough to normalize the benefits, and he indicated that the pending contract change over the past couple of years may have played a factor in delaying action.
Asked why the plants were in violation of the DOE order, NNSA spokesman Steven Wyatt provided this response:
“The benefit value (BenVal) study provides a benchmark at a particular point in time, but the target is always moving. Both Pantex and Y-12 were within the 105 threshold prior to 2008, and since then have not kept pace because of rapidly changing benefits in industry.
” Both sites took steps to reduce their benefit value index such as closing the Defined Benefit plan to new hires. Corrective actions that would better align Pantex and Y-12 with industry were delayed because the contract was being competed and subsequent delays impacted Pantex’s and Y-12’s ability to make benefit adjustments.”
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