Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Pension, retirement issues still hot topic

ROGER SNODGRASS, roger@lamonitor.com, Monitor Assistant Editor

According to promises made by the Department of Energy, LANL employees will be able to keep their jobs and their pensions and benefits regardless of who is the next manager of the laboratory.

But according to DOE's written proposals, LANL employees still have nothing definite to count on.

DOE has another chance to settle the matter when it publishes the final version of its request for proposal for LANL, now running many months behind schedule.

And some at the Department of Energy's Hanford site say LANL employees have every reason to be concerned.

"DOE and its contractors at the Hanford site have been assaulting the pension benefits of the Hanford employees since 1996," said Glynn Stevens, who heads the Hanford Retirement Benefits Action Committee.

He said it was obvious during the recompete process that pensions would become a target.

As Stevens described it, the new contractor promptly divided the site between continuing Hanford employees, whose pensions and benefits were maintained, and a new category of enterprise employees who were shorn of their expectations.

DOE has already announced its intention to set up a separate contract at LANL beginning in FY 2007 for environmental management.

Stevens said the division is arbitrary and potentially costly for employees.

Most of the people in the enterprise category are still doing Hanford work and sitting next to someone working for the lab.

The two groups do comparable work, but one group still has the old pensions, including retirement health benefits. The other's pension has been frozen; their health benefit depends on the company where they work; and they've lost their retirement health benefit.

The nest egg they expected has been whittled away.

"My pension is 100 percent less in valuation," Stevens said, due to the loss of a provision that would have paid his pension for ten years certain. Under his former Hanford pension, even if he died, his heirs would have been recipients for at least ten years.

Now, if he dies during his first week of retirement, the pension dies with him. Pension retention has been a prominent issue in the private sector for more than a decade.

In California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for revising the state pension system, including the University of California Retirement Plan.

The state reform, opposed by teachers and other public employees, would substitute a "defined contribution plan" - similar to a 401(k) - for the current "defined benefits plan" - which specifies how much a retiree will make.

Under a defined contribution plan, a pension amounts to whatever has been built up in the individual's retirement account at retirement.

The UCRP was so successful during the '90s that it was earning enough money from investments to pay for its members' contributions. It was self-funded.

In defending the LANL pensions, New Mexico's senators have couched their support in terms of recruitment and retention of leading scientists on behalf of national security concerns.

At Hanford, Stevens said, contractors are under pressure to reduce their long-term liabilities - in other words, their pensions.

With contractors and government entities clearly fighting over pensions and ways to get their cut, it may be time for LANL employees to think about getting their own cut.
Most employees who are old enough to retire with much of anything are planning to retire about 90 days before the current contract between UC and DOE ends. That is so they will be sure to retire under UCRS which is the best retirement in sight for almost anyone in their 50's.
Here is the problem. DOE has asked for a contract extension from UC, but we haven't heard a word since. Was such an extension agreed upon or is this just a smokescreen to get people to stay on past the end of the contract on Sept. 30. I have not seen a single news article on the agreement of DOE and UC to extend the contract and for that matter whether the terms will remain the same during the extension.
It appears that most employees who are vested and over 50 will want to retire before the new contractor takes over. It is important to know when that date is. The current request for an extension makes that fuzzy.
We should be demanding to know the absolute last date of the current contract, as currently agreed upon. Right now a whole lot of people are in limbo about when to retire without losing their retirement benefit.
DOE and UC need to let us know. As far as I know, the last day of the contract is still Sept. 30, 2005. Has anyone seen anything concrete to the contrary?
The last day of the UC contract is September 30, 2005. We are all awaiting the DOE's Final RFP, which will clarify for us if they mean to add the 180 day extension as stated in their second draft RFP. In the event that the 180 extension is added, how they plan to extend the current contract with UC has not been discussed.
This news story is very depressing. Is this the sort of thing we have to look
forward to at LANL? I would suggest you readers from LLNL pay close attention
to the LANL RFP. You will be next in 2007. The DOE template used for our RFP
will likely be the own reused for your RFP. That will likely mean the following:

(1) Your pension will be raided. In it's place you will get a
DOE-controlled pension with a declining pay-out rate.

(2) You will no longer be UC employees due to the "no cap" liability
clause in the RFP. You'll be run by a Frankenstein Corp.,
created as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).

(3) The drastic increase in costs in running your lab (ie, from about
$ 8 million to $200 million in LANL's case) will probably
mean RIFs at some point after the corporate take-over.

(4) Your science will die, as your new "business-focused" contract managers
slowly push your lab towards a more profitable, easier to manage,
production type facility.

LBL seems to have got off very easy in their RFP. The "no cap" liability
was not present (so they remain UC employees) and they were allowed to keep
their UCRP pension (so no reduction in pension). However, my guess is that
LLNL can expect an RFP more in line with the RFP that LANL is receiving.

I'm a bit curious. Are any of you people out there at LLNL watching this
disaster unfold here at LANL? What are your thoughts?
My observation of most people who are contemplating retirement is that they are trying to juggle between getting their project or research done or to a point where it can be handed off (neatly) to someone who can continue it and getting their retirement request/notification in before they lose too much. It seems a sad time for many who are both passionate about their work but also too smart to let what was offered slip away.

I know this probably happens in many more locations in corporate America and many nay-sayers have been very vocal about not wanting pay the 'exorbitant' pay currently afforded to many in Los Alamos, but it's shameful to see people have to choose between the work they love and the earlier-than-planned exit from it that they feel forced to choose.
Abolishing Academia at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Contract FY 2007

To whom it may concern,

For the first time in my twenty-two years as an employee of LLNL I can honestly say that the plan to establish a corporation to manage Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees is an absolute brilliant venture, if the mission is to restructure the system without fear of law suites.

For me, my only question to the University of California and to DOE is; just how kind will they be to their loyal employees after twenty to thirty years of service when in fact it was their dedication to duty during the cold war era that kept this country free.

For many of us it is imperative that the answer to this question be delivered on time and without procrastination by April of 2007. After all, you are playing with people’s livelihood where vital decisions must be made with extreme precaution.
For my final input to the success or demise of LLNL I am going to leave you with this fact. As of today the July 29th 2005 I have not talked to a single person who was at age fifty that says they are going to stay at LLNL if and when the UC loses the contract. I will wager that you will lose at least 50-60% of your FTE’s on the day before the new contractor takes control. I am one of those, especially after reading the LANL presentation attached.

So with that said I am going tell you what the employees of LLNL believe they are in for. This is what they are anticipating and quite frankly I don’t believe that their worries are far from being the truth.

· Fears of the new contractor and rumors taken as facts:

· Cut medical coverage – should be retained

· Termination of UC Retirement and 403b – Shameful to say the least

· Evade any possible law suites – good idea

· Employ the step system for pay and salary – absolutely necessary

· Reduce manpower to reasonable levels – not a bad idea

· Freeze wages at their current levels – not good

· Cut middle management by at least 50% - 75% -great idea

· Abolish employees between assignments - issue pink slips- not a bad idea

· Allow all support facilities to be contracted out – not a bad idea

· All employees including PhD’s to become contract labor- equal rights

· Give the employer an easy path for employee dismissal – not a bad idea

· Reduce the population by at least 50% - promote early retirement

· Moth-ball NIF – not a bad idea and great saving to all

· Transfer the Pu facility to NTS – a great idea

· Make LLNL and Institute not an R&D facility - cost effective
I cannot say that all of the above bullets are a bad idea. It is true; the labs need to be restructured. If that means a RIF or the termination and closure of large projects such as NIF and the Pu facility then so be it. But please give the people who are fifty year old with twenty years of service a golden handshake before Sept 29th 2007, and above all retain the medial benefits for all. The medical benefits are the MOST important thing one can have.

In conclusion I will say this to all I am leaving behind in 2007. Be happy that you were not working for United Airlines, Enron or General Motor’s.

LANL Contract Proposal Pay close attention to page 15-second paragraph and page 16.

Your are not the only ones going down in a ball of flames.
"I'm a bit curious. Are any of you people out there at LLNL watching this disaster unfold here at LANL? What are your thoughts?
# posted by Anonymous : 3/16/2005 10:19:44 AM "

YES. Go to http://webpages.charter.net/nvrpc/LLNL.html and see what we are talking abotu here and what we expect. Please pass to all employees at LANL so they know they are not alone. We are all going down in a ball of flames.
"I'm a bit curious. Are any of you people out there at LLNL watching this disaster unfold here at LANL? What are your thoughts?"

YES. Here is what we think we are in for. I only wish more LLNL employees would get off their dead-butts and do something, but no; it business as usual

Lab TV will broadcast Energy Secretary Bodman’s all-hands address

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, who is making his first visit to the Laboratory today (Aug. 3), will deliver an all-hands address to employees that will be broadcast live at 2:15 p.m. on Lab TV channel 2. Attendance in the Bldg. 123 auditorium is by invitation. Bodman is scheduled to receive updates on Lab national security programs and tour capabilities, including the National Ignition Facility and the Terascale Simulation Facility.

Heard him say; " we will be soory to see some of you go because of this new contract but we'll do our best to replace you as soon as possible"

Now what does that tell you?

I think we are all in for a big surprise and some eye openers. Check out LLNL website for video rebroadcast.
Having heard what the SOE said today at LLNL of which I hope they publish the transcripts I would say that anyone at LANL or at LLNL who is at least 50 years old would be a complete fool for staying and work for the new contractor. Afterall, there is no reason to stay. You are going to lose your medical and you can be replaced in a heartbeat. So lets leave it for the newly graduated college students and see just how far they get. It obvious that 20- 30 years experience is not worth the same as a sheep skin and that you will be replaced ASAP.

Does anyone have to say more?
A little bit of information that may be useful to some who care:

Bodman, Samuel W.
Phone:(202-586-6210) Fax:(202-586-4403) Routing:(S) Directory:(DOE) E-mail:(the.secretary@hq.doe.gov)

Waiting to see the video clips that are coming out on the LLNL website Monday in their on-line newsline. Lets hope they didn't edit out the important stuff.
Dear Mr. Bodman,

I watched your video presentation at LLNL yesterday and found that on some subject matters your are absolutely correct in your assumptions such as NIF but on others I found you to be very callus and basically a corporate man. However after examining your tract record from previous employers I can understand what you do and what your were appointed to do. This being the fact and besides the point I would like to ask that you read my entire note and the attachment. You will find that on some subject matters we agree but on others we are in separate corners, nevertheless it is important for you to understand what employees such as myself are having thoughts on. I am sure that the people of LLNL and LANL are in fact sharing information and similar expectation.

As you can see I have cc'd your boss and my local congressman so that he knows we are conversing. Something I do often with various politicians as an exercise of my constitutional right, one that would not be here if it wasn't for the men and women of the national laboratories. This is something that I would hope you'd take into consideration when making the final decisions about ones retirement and benefits.

Please see attached MS word document that is virus free. It contains a brief outline of what is being said amongst the troops at LLNL deep down in the trenches. They are based on observations over the years, most recent presentation released by LANL and your most recent speech given at LLNL to the invited few.

The two videos of your speech will be released on Monday at LLNL's Newsline website for all to see and comment on. It is my hopes that you get a lot of e-mails

Thank you for you consideration
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