By Betsy Mason
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 05/21/2008 11:03:03 PM PDT
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is laying off 440 employees today and Friday, including 110 scientists and engineers with more than a decade of experience.
The lab had received approval from the National Nuclear Security Administration to release up to 535 employees from the permanent work force, but instead will cut about 100 more temporary "flex-term" workers in the coming months to make up the difference.
"It was never just about getting that number at all costs," lab spokeswoman Susan Houghton said. "It was about doing it right."
Lab management determined that the permanent work force couldn't be slimmed any further and the rest of the cuts could be more easily absorbed elsewhere.
Notices are being sent out today to 500 temporary employees, informing them that about 100 of them will lose their jobs as early as the end of June, bringing the total work force down to about 6,600.
"We do not believe after this it will be necessary to have another involuntary separation at the lab," Houghton said. The layoffs should bring the lab in line with its budget for fiscal 2009, she said. The budget shortfall is due to increased costs associated with switching management from the University of California to a private management company in October, along with federal budget cuts.
Today, three-fourths of the permanent employees being laid off will be notified and brought to a centralized "exit center" to receive their benefits packages, return lab property and leave. They will be paid for 30 days before their severance pay of one week per year of service at the lab kicks in.
An additional 54 scientists and engineers with less than 10 years at the lab are among those being notified today.
The 110 experienced scientists and engineers, such as biologists and chemists, will be released Friday. Before their severance begins, they will have the option of staying on the payroll for three months and doing unclassified work in an office outside the lab's perimeter fence, or telecommuting.
The other 276 employees being released include financial analysts, facilities technicians and administrative assistants. This is the first time in 35 years that permanent lab employees are being laid off.
Houghton said the lab is doing a number of things to help employees find new jobs, including organizing a career fair on June 19 with 35 employers who are interested in hiring lab workers and opening a new resource center on Tuesday to help laid-off employees with resume building, benefits counseling and training opportunities.
"Our goal is to separate these employees in the most empathetic and dignified way as possible," Houghton said. "We realize it's difficult, but we want to better position our lab for the future."
Reach Betsy Mason at 925-952-5026 or firstname.lastname@example.org.