Monday, March 14, 2005

The Pension is a BIG DEAL -

From Anonymous:

The Pension is a BIG DEAL -

I have over 20 years service and the pension for me is a big deal. I
am not a scientist, overpaid manager or have my entire family working
here. I will be 55 years old this September and over the next five
years the monthly annuity increases by $300 per month/year = $1500 per
month increase at 60. If one was to take a lump sum it means a
difference/increase of $230,000 by age 60. I doubt that any new
contractor or UC privatized pension plan would be this generous. I
came to work here at the height of my career because I believed that
the work here was cutting edge and necessary for the defense of this
great country. The pension plan was a major part of my decision to
come here. Beautiful country here but its still out in the sticks. In
general if the pension plan is greatly diminshed as some are bent on
doing then I am afraid LANL will become a hollow shell of itself and
just another government failure.

Your concerns are the very same as mine. I am 50 and have 18 years of
service. I'm the sole bread-winner for my large family, and the
pension will be the bulk of my future retirement income. No one else
in my family works for LANL. DOE meddling with the UC pension is
extremely frightening to me. I was hoping to serve out the next
10 years and retire at 60, as many at LANL have done. At this
point, I've got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that the
"golden ring" is about to be pulled away from my grasp just as I
was getting near to it. The pension is a very big deal to me and my
family's future security. Anyone in my position would be nuts to
think otherwise.

I used to believe that US laws kept pensions safe from being raided.
What I've now come to learn is that raids and sleazy manipulations
of pensions by unscrupulous people happen all the time. It has
become especially common with Federal workers over the last five
years, as government jobs have been awarded as pork to the corporate
friends of our political leaders. America used to believe in
capitalism, were workers took on greater risks but also shared in
greater rewards. Today, we only get the risk part. This country
is heading towards a kleptocracy, and taking my pension with it.
Why should my hard earned tax dollars go to support your bloated pensions?
You people all richly deserve what is about to come your way. It's called
Troll alert.
I fully agree with the concerns expressed. Let's evaluate DOE/NNSA by comparative performance criteria. Of the nations with nuclear weapons we are tail-end Charlie. Pakistan can make more pits than we can (per a comment from a White House official); we can't make tritium; we can't test our designs; our last critical assembly facility is boxed up awaiting shipment; the number of CAT 1 nuclear facilities here have been reduced, in 20 years, from 15 to 1; most of our competitors have more modern facilities than we have; the foreign management organizations responsible for their nuclear weapon programs consider their laboratories crown jewels and treat them accordingly instead of just saying it; the foreign competition does not fabricate reasons for shutting down essential nuclear facilities and, I suspect, don't tolerate leaders that do; and they don't drive away their future contributors, their customers, or their most knowledgeable nuclear scientists.

Now this same organization DOE/NNSA with the record mentioned is working to develop a management plan for our pensions. Unfortunately, I have a long way to go before I retire. Why do I share your sickness in the pit (non-nuclear) of my stomach? Since I don't own a house, I'm always a "packed knapsack" and "a tank of gas" away from a decision to get out of this dodge, if of course I can afford the gas.
To the comment at 2:39 PM

What are you talking about? Despite many failings, UC has had great pensions that have NOT been fed from the federal coffers. That seems to be one of the major concerns of other interested parties. They cannot compete with the current UC pension plan. It is a great bargain for the price that DOE has been paying.

Please do not interpret this comment to support UC on any other point concerning management style, oversight or technical contributions to the lab.

Do you really believe that the employees of this facility deserve to have their pensions devastated as a reward for doing their jobs.

Regardless of your politics or beliefs no sane person can say that this proposed change is a 'good' outcome for anyone here.

Local folks who have complained about LANL in the past should be very careful to not crow too loudly about our current situation. Whether any of you like it or not LANL is a HUGE economic driver in Northern New Mexico.

If we go through massive cuts, your economy will suffer with us.
This seems like a "duh" decision: with 16 years here, I can take a job somewhere else and accrue separate retirement benefits there. On top of that, at age 60, I can take the UC benefit I have already earned: 40%. Or I could continue working here until I have 30 years, as I have always thought I would. Under the current plan, my benefit would be 75%. But, under the proposed plan, it will be less than 40%.

Hmmm... what to do?
To the 3:52pm post. Where did you get the "proposed plan" figures you mention? Thanks.

I'm in the same boat as the rest of you. Trying to decide if I should go inactive or retire. Have to be willing to give up the unclear (to me anyway) "guarantee" of a job though. LANL had a good run, personally would have liked another 5-10 years, but that's life.

LANL will indeed join the ranks of the rest of America as far as pensions and benefits go. No point in even lamenting the fact any longer. It's all been said and done. There is nothing special about LANL.

Those making a decision to come later will merely weigh the benefits that the future LANL has to offer.
As the investment councilors state, it's not good to have all your eggs in one basket. That's why contributing to the 403b is like a second pension, one that the new contractor will find difficult or impossible to loot (but their clever lawyers may find a way). In other words, you don’t have to leave the lab to have the benefits of a backup pension plan, you just have to pay more for it.
Folks, in the last Nanos all-hands, after he turned off the recording, he told the story of him taking a third star to retire in order to secure his Navy pension to support his elderly mother and invalid wife. As much as most of us, uh, dislike, Nanos, I think it was one of the few things that he said that he actually meant: do what you have to do, and I respect you for it.

I think those near but not yet 50 may be the biggest "losers" in the rebid. Those hovering around 40 could probably take a hit; those close enough to 55 could probably retire. But those around 50: what to do?

With that said, I must say that I did not come here for the pension. Pension is a dying animal. Most Americans do not get a pension. Many large corporations are foregoing pension in lieu of matching contributions to the 401(k). You ought to be maxing out on the 403(b) instead of counting on a pension. Once that's taken care of, I don't waste time thinking about the pension at all.

I've known lots of people that have retired this year. I do not begrudge their desire to safeguard their pension. Many of these people have also said, however, that it's not just the contract: they are fed up with Nanos and with what's happening at the Lab, and they didn't want to bother with it anymore. More respect to them!

Finally, it's a popular belief that we are "owed" a pension because we cannot publish our work (and therefore we perish). I hope to never become so mediocre as to believe that someone owes me a job and a pension because of my particular career choices. I hope I will have the guts to move on, like so many of those that have retired before their time, when I've exhausted my usefulness, and not cling on until I turn 60 just to get "the pension that I am entitled to".
To those of you who don't know- DOE has not contributed ONE CENT to LANL pensions about 15 years. That's right folks, zero of your taxpayer dollars have gone to fund those UC pensions. (UC had an expert investment team.) However, you unfortunate taxpayers are going to lose UC, its funded pensions, and its (low) 8 million annual management fee.

The new contractor will receive a 60 million annual management fee.(And some bidders have dropped out because this fee is considered low.) The new contractor will be required to provide pensions of some sort. So here's some math. .05 % pension contribution per year out of a Billion payroll= 50 Million as your new DOE annual contribution.

You may not like LANL or its mission, but new management will cost you about 15 times more than you have been paying under UC.
Today is a snow day at the lab, so a few employees were at the local YMCA. The talk around the weightroom was of early retirement and "being afraid that the new contractor would not honor the (current) pension plan". In the past year, my company laid me off after 30 years of service and did not offer me another position because of workforce reduction. About 13 years ago, my ex-company did away with a pension plan, which included retiree insurance, and went to a 401K plan. I am 55 yrs old and unemployed/retired. I can now draw a monthly payment from that old pension plan, because I did not roll it into the 401K plan. Get over yourselves people - learn to live in reality, a bit smaller and without all of the toys and faux-prestige you think working at the lab bestows upon you.
I have 27 years with UC, and at this point DOE is retroactively changing the 'rules' for those years. We should all be upset because this is a big deal. I can not have those years back and go spend them elsewhere.... If DOE can change the pension rules at will, can it blame people if they go 'inactive' or retire early?

Using LANL HR numbers, there are about 8100 employees. 1700 are age 55 and older. (21%) 1485 are between 50-54.(18.3%) 3057 are 40-49 (38%. The exodus maybe huge.
To the poster at 3:12pm -

The sweet spot for retirement is around age 60 with 30 years of service.
Not all of those people 55 and over have the years of service. Also, I
suspect that not many of the people age 50-55 will opt to retire. They
will hold on, hoping (beyond hope?) that they will still get a good deal
from DOE if they just stay a few years longer. Remember that pensions
are heavily back-loaded, so those last few years bring in huge increases
in your pension pay-out. Most people will decide to take the risk.

Putting the info together, and looking at the salary lists for years
of service, in addition to age, I come up with a ball-park figure of
about 15% of the staff leaving before the new contractor takes over.

Many companies now use annual RIFs these days. Over at GE, they get
rid of around 5% of the lowest performers each year. A company
can lose 5% of the workforce without a hitch (esp. if they are the
bottom feeders). Losing around 15% of a workforce is a bit more
serious. It will definitely be noticed. Also, some of those leaving
will be very seasoned people, such as the older weapons designers.

Bottom line is that the exodus will surely be noticed, but it
certainly won't destroy the lab. And with, as some posters have
conjectured, a 10% RIF headed our way due to the huge cost
increases in running the lab, having a 15% exodus may save LANL
from needing to implement a painful RIF. None of this is good
news, but that's just the way it is.
For the 2:39 PM Poster: You are obviously not an employee or you would not speak the nonsense about "your tax dollars!" The LANL UC pension has been self-funded since about 1983. The was due to exception skill on the part of the UC pension management team. Neither employees nor the DOE have contributed anything since then. Under the new contract, be assured that it is likely that both the DOE and the employess will contribute.
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