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West Valley contractor plans to cut 90 jobs

The contractor to the U.S. Department of Energy for the next phase of work at West Valley Demonstration Project plans to cut 90 jobs this month.

CH2M Hill and Babcock & Wilcox West Valley, known as CHBWV, has made employment offers to 173 of the 263 employees of the outgoing contractor, West Valley Environmental Services, equal to 66 percent of the current work force. They have until later this week to accept the offers, according to West Valley Environmental.

West Valley Environmental's contract at the Cattaraugus County operation ends Aug. 28, and the employees not retained by the new contractor will be laid off on that date. Severance will be determined based on years of service, and the laid-off workers will receive help in searching for new jobs.

Lynette Bennett, a spokeswoman for CHBWV, said the mood at the site was "somber" as the layoff notices were announced.

"None of our decisions were based on poor performance or anything like that," she said. "They were very hard decisions to make." Each of the affected employees was notified by phone calls as well as by letters, she said.

"Everyone has been very professional, even in times like this," Bennett said.

Bennett said the number of job cuts were determined by the budget allotted by the Energy Department, as well as the scope of the work. In turn, those factors determined the mix of employee skills required to carry out the work, she said.

CHBWV in June was awarded a $333.4 million contract with the Energy Department to carry out the first phase of the West Valley Demonstration Project's decommissioning. It is expected to run for seven years.

In March, as West Valley Environmental's contract was winding down and federal stimulus dollars tied to specific projects were ending, the contractor announced it would eliminate 65 jobs. Fifteen employees took voluntary separation packages, reducing somewhat the number of layoffs required to reach the job-reduction target.

But West Valley Environmental had cautioned that additional job cuts could follow, as the next contractor made its own decisions about how many workers it needed for the successive phase.

CHBWV's focus in the new contract will be the removal of the largest, contaminated facility on site, the former spent reactor fuel reprocessing plant built in the early 1960s.

Bennett noted that if any of the 173 workers opted not to accept offers to stay on, the contractor would first look to the 90 workers facing cuts to try to fill the positions.