Y-12, Pantex now in compliance with DOE order

y12overviewAerial view of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. (NNSA photo)

The Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons plants are now in compliance with Department of Energy Order 350.1, contractor spokesman Jason Bohne confirmed today.

Basic RGBDOE Order 350.1 establishes parameters on how much can be spent on benefits for contractor employees and other human resource programs, and Consolidated Nuclear Security reportedly achieved compliance by cutting benefits at the two plants, effective at the first of the year.

Y-12 and Pantex had been out of kilter with the order for years, perhaps dating back to 2008, with benefits funded above the allotted amount. Enforcement of the order was reportedly put on the shelf for the past couple of years because of the extended contract competition that combined the management of the two plants.

CNS, a partnership headed by Bechtel National, took over management of the National Nuclear Security Administration facilities on July 1, 2014, and benefit reductions were a part of the changes enacted by the new contractor. Not all Y-12 and Pantex employees were affected by the changes. Benefits for hourly workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements that are subject to negotiation.

The rules require that a contractor spend no more than 5 percent above the average amount spent by a comparative group. In the case of Y-12 and Pantex, their benefits were compared with those at 27 other companies and institutions — including Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

In a pre-Christmas interview, CNS President Jim Haynes said the benefit reductions would bring Y-12/Pantex to 4 or 5 percent above the average. “We ended up with this new benefit package getting to 1.04 or 1.05 — which is right at the top of the range,” Haynes said. “So, we’re still right at 5 percent above the comparative group, which is well above the average for industry in general in the United States.”

Haynes said the key moving forward will be to stay in compliance. “The comparative group is going to constantly change, so you have to constantly monitor it,” he said.

Depending on what happens, more benefit changes could be forthcoming, he said.

CNS had to make up for lost time, and that made it more difficult, Haynes said.

“I know it’s difficult for all of us to swallow. It’s my benefits as well as all the employees’ benefits,” the CNS executive said. “It’s a tough pill for anyone to swallow because you get accustomed to a certain level of benefits . . . But it’s part of the financial discipline that we have to meet, and employees are adjusting.

“We will adjust to things, we will be compliant and create a more sustainable future for this place by doing so,” Haynes said. “And that’s the key, to make sure 20, 30 years from now, people standing here . . . will say Y-12 has a bright future for the next 20, 30 more years because we practiced financial discipline, we’ve got our benefits in compliance, we got a new set of missions, all the stuff that you want to see.”

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.