A contractor cleaning up a former nuclear weapons complex in South Carolina says it will lay off hundreds of employees by the end of the month.
A letter sent to employees of Savannah River Remediation Thursday says close to 465 workers will be let go later this month to meet U.S. Energy Department budget needs. SRR has a contract with the Energy Department to remediate radioactive liquid nuclear waste stored at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, Allendale, and Barnwell counties.
Interim President Stuart MacVean says the decision about who to let go will depend on the forecasted staffing level expectations for different positions in the company over the coming years.
“I regret that we have to take this step, but I encourage you to avoid the distractions that these workforce changes can cause,” MacVean wrote. “Together, we have accomplished much since SRR took over as the SRS Liquid Waste contractor in July 2009. We ask that you continue to focus on achievement of this critical mission, and watch out for each other’s safety.”
SRR spokesman Dean Campbell said the layoffs come as the company tries to meet a lower budget set by the Energy Department. The federal government has set a $380 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year (which begins on October 1). That is down from $440 million this current fiscal year.
The budget cuts are not related to sequestration, he said. Once the layoffs are finished, SRR will have about 1,700 employees, Campbell said.
The letter says workers’ last day of employment will be on September 27. MacVean says the separated employees will receive two weeks’ pay and a severance payment equal to one week’s pay for each full year of eligibility service for up to 26 weeks.
Employees who are laid off will be able to enter early retirement if they qualify. Workers will also be able to get help finding a new job through the Georgia Department of Labor and/or the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce. Employees will also be given preference-in-hiring for other Department of Energy jobs.
Earlier this year another SRS contractor, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, furloughed about 2,500 employees also due to federal budget cutbacks. The Energy Department eventually reprogrammed some funds to shorten the furlough time.