Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Agencies Release LANL Layoff Plan
By Raam Wong
Journal Northern Bureau
SANTA FE— The federal agencies in charge of Los Alamos National Laboratory have released a plan for carrying out possible job cuts at the lab.
In broad terms, the draft plan describes how the lab will determine which positions to cut— if need be— as well as what types of severance and health insurance are available to displaced workers.
Federal law requires that the U.S. Department of Energy develop a plan whenever "workforce restructuring" is necessary at defense nuclear facilities.
Los Alamos faces continued uncertainty over its budget for the 2008 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. The U.S. House of Representatives this summer passed a spending bill that calls for deep cuts, likely resulting in as many as 2,500 layoffs.
The spending bill must still be reconciled with a version endorsed by a Senate committee that calls for a slight funding increase.
In the meantime, the lab is operating under a stopgap funding measure that funds the federal government at 2007 levels through Nov. 16.
While the deep cuts endorsed by the House appear unlikely, managers at Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories have told employees they would begin preparing for layoffs just in case.
Meanwhile, DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration on Friday released the draft restructuring plan.
The plan states that its aim is mitigating the impact of layoffs on employees and surrounding communities through consultation with affected stakeholders.
"The Department recognizes that any planned reduction in employment levels at LANL could cause a high level of anxiety within the workforce," the plan states. "To minimize anxiety, LANL's contractors will communicate frequently, openly and honestly with employees."
The 14-page plan relies on language such as "involuntary separation of employees" to describe the potential layoffs.
Under the plan, Los Alamos National Security, the lab's manager, will compare the skills the lab needs to the skills employees have, in order to identify areas that can be cut.
The plan encourages the lab to offer affected employees the opportunity to voluntarily leave their jobs. However, workers who voluntarily resign will receive the same severance pay and medical benefits as those who are laid off, the plan states.
Displaced employees who were eligible for health insurance from the lab will be eligible for DOE's Displaced Workers Medical Benefits Program, provided that they don't qualify for another plan.
Laid-off workers will be given a hiring preference to fill other positions for which they are qualified or for which they can be trained.
The draft plan is available on the Los Alamos Site Office's Web site, www.doeal.gov/laso, for public comment through Friday [19 October 2007].