Tuesday, March 01, 2005


From Anonymous:

Perhaps to protect LANL employees rights its time to think about
hiring a lawyer thats an expert in labor contract law. Just wondering
if others think its a good idea to persue this? We would of course
require money to do this and could probably set up a legal fund at a
local bank to do this.

Hiring a lawyer is not a bad idea, but is no substitute for making the collective voice of employees heard. UPTE used its members' dues to hire two lawyers to examine the first draft RFP, one a specialist in employment law, the other a Washington,DC based specialist in DOE procurement. The price was substantial, as one might guess. We mailed the letter jointly written by our lawyers to the SEB and to the New Mexico congressional delegation. CLE referenced UPTE's letter in its own letter to the same group of people.
In the second draft RFP, DOE did adopt some of UPTE's suggestions, mainly the substitution of the phrase "substantially equivalent" benefits for "comparable" benefits.
The new draft RFP also mentions retiree medical benefits, which was something else UPTE and CLE had asked for.
Unfortunately, the SEB decided to add some of the suggestions from possible bidders as well. As was stated in the newspaper the day second RFP came out, DOE wants to keep the benefits package from getting so high that industry is unable to compete for the contract with government entities. So the second draft RFP doesn't require the successful bidder to hire all current LANL employees as the first one did.
The big problem is the philosophy of keeping the benefits package from getting too large in order to encourage bidding by private companies.
As long as DOE is committed to lowering the cost of employee benefits from its present cost level, no number of letters to the DOE and/or the SEB will do any good.
What the DOE needs to hear is that employees don't want their benefits package lowered period and they want all of the current employees hired into the new organization, and they want DOE to pay the winning bidder enough money that there is no need to cap or even lower benefits.
What DOE needs to hear is that world class science costs substantial sums and cannot be had at bargain basement prices. It does not require a lawyer to point this out, though having a lawyer conduct a contract walk through and comparison with other similar contracts is very educational.
We did find the attorneys helpful in finding the "gotchas" in the contract and in advising us what to ask for. It's just that we hadn't bargained for the zero-sum restriction on the benefits package.
Having a lawyer never hurts, but DOE seems very interested in cost cutting on the backs of employees, no matter what employees ask for. Until DOE can be persuaded otherwise, I am afraid we are stuck with gaining a benefit in one place and losing a benefit in another place when we ask for changes.
Union applications are available at the UPTE website.
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