Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Remain clueless

Submitted by Anonymous:


You might not be surprised to learn that many of the current LANL staff remain clueless about the transitition, UC, and the whole mess. Some people still appear to feel as if the system, and UC in particular, "owes" them. 'Severance pay', my ass.

A letter from today's LANL NewsBulletin:

Jan. 24, 2006

Have they considered?

Since the log jam of letters on transition finally seems to be moving through the system. What are the options for University of California employees who choose not to transition to Los Alamos National Security LLC? Since they are essentially "closing a campus," what is the severance package that UC will offer? Does it include preferential hiring at other UC facilities, severance pay, training apportionment? Or, have they even addressed this? Seems like something which should be considered and definitely included in information being presented.

--[Name withheld]

Severance pay? Preferential hiring at other UC facilities? Perhaps the esteemed LANL staff person would like a nice, hot cappuccino and a neck rub as well?
Yes, Finknottle. And fetch slippers, too?
I suppose you have a *problem* with that.
This fellow is in serious denial mode. I suggest he see if he can find
a cushy position with the Zia Corporation. I hear they are hiring new
managers to take care of all the government-owned housing up on the Hill.
I've been doing quite a bit of maintenence and upgrade work on a government built house (group 18B). Maybe I work for Zia...
LANL is not a "campus", it is a GOCO site.
Quit hounding me, Pat.

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

Just be grateful I'm not a cat--lest you should have to check out your boots every time before pulling them on.

Your faithful *hound* (grrrrrr),
While the idea of severance pay might seem at first unlikely, we have recently been told that we can expect "pink slips" in mid-March. This seems to be a requirement of the upcoming contract change, that said we do have severance rights should you terminated from LANL. I believe its 1 wk for each of the first 5 yrs of service and then 2wks pay per year of service thereafter.

This entire process seems to have at best been a prolonged exercise in shooting from the hip, so I'm not sure the transition folks have really thought out the termination notices. Thoughts or insight please.
If the transition cost for the rest of this year, as passed through to the LANL budget by NNSA is $100 million (remember how they said that that wouldn't happen? well, you just can't spend your time whimpering about every little thing, can you?), then the number of staff (at $300,000/staff member) that need to retire is 333 by June 1. Last year, some 400 people retired (half again the 'usual' rate from several years previous--before the threat of privatization or the calamity of shutdown), so we could expect a nearly zero-sum game this year. Many people will be scared into staying with LANS, by virtue of the retirement-system uncertainties. If the management costs of the transition (managers earning half again to twice what they earned before, and two management teams in place for the next four months), then a small reduction in force is not entirely unreasonable, and any new hires of technical staff will not be happening (as opposed to managers--remember: LANL's product for the next year will be 'management', not science).

Sorry to be the bearer of potentially bad news, but a small (~100 or so) RIF is not at all out of the realm of possibility. Life is getting harder and harder for the common man, just as life is getting sweeter and sweeter for the Powers That Be. And if you're not on the winning team, well, God be with you.

By the way, the UPTE union website will soon allow you to download a form for membership, which you can fill in and mail, along with a check for dues. -The time has come, my friends.
All we ask 333 by June 1st.

I hope that a lot more then that leave before June 1st. That is off by a factor of 10 in my books. 333 people is a drop in the bucket if one wants to make a point. As far as being scared into staying with LANS, well if that be the case then you have played right into their hands. Good luck people. No matter what they do I am gone but I will be watching very closely for more back door attacks on the horizon, as you should.
AlmostatMyEnd, what parts of the Lab have been told to expect "pink slips"?
Does anyone know if the DOE is requiring that LANS offer a retirement plan/employee benefits program that is "substantially equivalent" to UCRP/UC benefits just at the time of LANS taking over LANL, or does it have to remain "substantially equivalent" to UCRP/UC benefits during the full length of the contract.

It seems the real risk to LANL employees is the farther you get from June 1 2006, the less you look like UC employees in terms of equivalent benefits, personnel policies/rights, and retirements plans.
So if there are going to be pink slips and severance pay, then one could get 53 weeks of pay if you've worked for 29 years and retire the day after you severed. How would that affect the transition costs if several hundred potential retirees took that path? This is pretty similar to the voluntary RIF that occurred in 1995.

You see the weasel words too. The wording does not specify a time limit. My take on it would be that it would go for say right after the LLNS wins the bid on Livermore.

My only wish out of this would be honesty now versus honesty when things get too late. Too many union leaders, corporate bosses, presidents, congressmen (all parties and stripes) have stuck their head in the sand about how much things might really cost with the big bump of boomers retired with the promised benefits from pensions, contracts, campaign promises.

They would say things like "We have enough money.." but use actuarial tables from the 1960's and 1970s to justify things. They would add more benefits some with the knowledge that it would 10-20 years before the problem became evident. And now just as it is becoming evident that too much has been promised, borrowed against, not saved enough.. you either get "its all ok" or "we have to dramatically get rid of everything."

A moderate approach is all I am asking.
It's interesting that the old Zia company has been mentioned, as there are some parallels between that change of contractor and the current situation. FWIW, Zia employees who did not choose to go with the new contractor did indeed receive severance pay, in the amount of 1 week's pay for each year employed.
Are all UC employees considered to be at will employees meaning they can be terminated with or without notice, with or without cause, at any time at UC's option?

Does anyone know if LANS employees are going to be "at will" employees? Do "at will" employees have a grievance process before ultimately being terminated?
I don't believe LANS is going to accept your California employment contract. Not that it matters much since California employment laws don't work in New Mejico.
Brad, I suspect LANL will need more than 333 to retire to avoid a RIF. Probably more like 2 to 3 times that number is my guess.
LANL people are technically at will employees.. California laws do not cover people employed outside of the state. In fact, while the taking the oath of California is required for employment, it may not a legally binding contract for people outside of the state... it is instead the equivalent of saying "to get this job you need to hop on your left foot 3 times."

I would not expect any sort of severance pay from UC/LANL because technically LANL is a GOCO and not a campus. The same applies to LLNL, though California laws may have some stipulations that change that.

I would also expect that more like 3x (1000 people) above the normal retirement cycle would need to be done for a RIF not to occur. This is not due to a 100 million in changeover costs, but more on the fact that a 5-10 % cut in overall DOE funding is expected in the coming fiscal year. Being that St Pete is NOT up for re-election this cycle.. his pull will not be as great as other areas .
The parallels continue. My first job upon returning to Los Alamos in 1984 was to head the industrial engineering department of the Zia company. My mission: improve the efficiency with which the Zia company conducted its business. Sort of like the lab these days, it was possible to come to work and discover 15 ways to improve the way business was conducted before even having a cup of coffee. The head of the Zia company back then was a one-star US Army General (retired). State of the company: dire straights, because the afore-mentioned General had not a clue as to how to run a services company.

I lasted 18 months before it became obvious that The General had, with the help of his cronies, driven the Zia company all the way into the ground. He had some help: the entire second floor of the Zia company at that time was filled with retired Army colonels and generals. It's actually kind of spooky: that general's name was "Pete" also. Together, he and his pals lost the contract that the Zia Company had held for 40 years. I realized what was happening and bailed; went to the lab. A couple of months later Pan Am services won the contract. Then JCI. The rest is history.

Doug, General Berger...geez, that was the time when the Lab one-upped Zia with the planting of my line manager 2-Star General Chris Adams. He had been chief-of-staff for SAC. Small world! Jim Jackson increased his influence at about the same time.
AMAZING! Years ago a retired senior military officer who knew nothing of running a service officer drove the support services subcontractor into the ground. Looks a lot like the current state of affairs in the Facility Management (I mean, Maintenance) Division today. Seems those who refuse to learn from history are destined to repeat it. Gosh, it's good to be gone.....
My understanding is that we will receive two letters - one terminating our employment effective May 31 and another new offer letter, effective June 1.

I've heard that the offer letter will emphasize two points - one, we are at will employees but more importantly, THAT ALL EMPLOYEES OF THE NEW LLC WILL BE ON A ONE YEAR PROBATIONARY PERIOD - read - we can rid this place of you "problem" employees without any advance notice, and of course, since you are all new employees, there is no severance pay provision. Has anyone else heard about this?
Is there any chance this qualifies as racketeering for which REECO may be invoked?
Here's my math on the RIF or needed number of retirees.

The average annual cost of a LANL employee is about $125K (salary of about $100K and 25% for benefits).

The additional cost of the new contract is:
Management Fee = $80M - $8M = $72M
Gross Receipts Tax = $120M
Retirement Contributions $80M
Total = $272M

expected FY2007 budget reduction = 5% * $2.2B = $110M

Total Needed Funds = $272M + $110M
= $372M.

# of employees = $372M/$0.125M =

Of course, some of the reduced cost can come from non-payroll. But, not all that much unless we abandon facilities and then do not have to pay for those utilities and can eliminate JCI costs for those facilities.

But, even then, I would think that a reduction of 2000 employees is needed.
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