Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Notes on LANS presentation in Santa Fe

[From an anonymous reporter]

I, along with about 200 others, attended the LANS (Los Alamos Nuclear Security) Employee and Retiree Meeting at the Santa Fe Community College on Tuesday evening, February 21st.

The meeting was run by a NNSA guy and a LANS HR guy.

The presentation was the 27 slide PowerPoint Presentation titled "Public Briefing Slides." This can be found on the LASO website:
http://www.doeal.gov/laso/ContractTransition/default.html

This presentation lasted about 45 minutes. Questions were not permitted until the end. There were a number of questions that had been answered in the presentation. Either people did not pay attention or they showed up late.

There were a few complex questions, such as how people on disability would be handled. The NNSA guy and LANS HR guy were unable to answer some of these questions and the individuals were referred to LANL HR.

The meeting lasted the specified two hours. There were more questions at the end, but some of the questions started to make the NNSA guy uncomfortable so he adjourned the meeting. People began leaving during the question and answer period and I estimate that only about 25 were present at the very end.

Here are my notes from the question and answer period. If I got any of this wrong or left out anything important, I would appreciate input from other attendees.


FOR RETIREES:
--------------------

Currently, the retiree medical insurance premium is deducted from the UCRS pension check. The retiree medical insurance plan is directly funded by the DOE and will be administered by LANS After the transition, retirees will send their insurance premiums to LANS.

United Healthcare, Medco, and Delta Dental will be continued in their present form. New identity cards will be issued at the time of the transition.

Medicare Part B contributions are a DOE obligation and will continue.

A number of retirees and employees participate in the CALPERS Long Term Care Plan. There was no discussion of this in the presentation. The LANS HR guy stated that they had not known about this until a few weeks ago and were now studying the issue.

NNSA is quite opposed to UC separating out the LANL portion of the pension fund. This issue is not resolved. Although the LANL portion of the pension fund is only "funded at the 99% level," the NNSA guy says that this is not a problem at the present time. Problems that concern the UC regents regarding the LANL participants in the pension fund were stated as:

1. LANL employees retire earlier (~age 59) than UC faculty (~age 62).
2. LANL retirees live longer.
3. LANL employee have higher salaries.

The NNSA guy stated that the DOE is obligated to assure the continuance of the pensions of LANL retirees.

===========================================================

FOR EXISTING EMPLOYEES:
-------------------------------------

First, it is clear that NNSA really does not want a lot of people to retire. The TCP1 (Total Compensation Plan #1) mirrors the existing UC compensation and benefits plans to the extent legally possible. As far as I can tell, the only significant loss is that the 401a, 403b, and 457 pre-tax savings plans, which are only permitted for "public" employers, are replaced by a 401K plan, which is for "private" employers. The loss is as follows:

age under 50: max current contribution = $30K, TCP1 contribution = $15K
age over 50: max current contribution = $40K, TCP1 contribution = $20K

This is legally mandated.

ALL existing employees who do NOT elect to begin drawing their UCRS pensions will receive a LANS job offer at their current salary. Existing employees who elect to begin drawing their UCRS pension MAY (or MAY NOT) receive a LANS job offer. These individuals will be TCP2 employees.

=============================================================

FOR NEW EMPLOYEES:
-------------------------------

The "new" employees who will be under TCP2 and they are screwed! TCP2 adheres to the 105% of the average compensation plans of the 15 "peer employers." That list includes General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, and United Technologies. These are not R&D organizations and their workforce does not include a large proportion of PhD-level scientists. SANDIA and PNNL are included. But, comparable employers such as DOE labs like ANL, BNL, FNAL, LBL, ORNL, and TJNAF are NOT included in the calculation.

The NNSA guy stated that LANL was at 129% of the "employer cost" of benefits relative to the average of the 15 peer employers. He was quite incorrect here. In the case of LANL, the cost of the UCRS pension has been zero since about 1990.

For TCP2, there is a 3.5% to 5.5% employer pension contribution (depends on length of service). Along with that, LANS will match employee 401K contributions up to 6.5%. The major drawback is that there will be NO employer contributions to the TCP2 retiree medical plan. TCP2 retirees will be able to participate in the LANS medical plan but will pay full cost.

This is not a particularly attractive total compensation plan relative to other DOE labs.

============================================================

Comments on the proposed compensation and benefits plan should be sent to:
inputonlansbenefits@doeal.gov

-Anonymous

Comments:
I guess the proverbial nutshell contains: RETIREES must remain vigilant because UCRP-LANL is not resolved; EXISTING EMPLOYEES should consider retiring because it is clear that NNSA really does NOT want a lot of people to retire (based on the obvious principle that what your adversary does NOT want you to do is usually what is in your best interest); NEW EMPLOYEES are screwed.
 
Perhaps there is a reason why "R&D organizations" are not in the
TCP2 peer group. Perhaps DOE is telling us something. In the
future, there may not be much need to attract PhD candidates,
especially if production work becomes our main thrust. There
is a clear message in that TCP2 new-hire package.
 
"First, it is clear that NNSA really does not want a lot of people to retire. The TCP1 (Total Compensation Plan #1) mirrors the existing UC compensation and benefits plans to the extent legally possible." Yeap and still isn't worth the powder to blow it to hell and back. I wonder when they'll get the point.
 
From the CalPERS web page for long-term care, it says "If you leave public employment or move to another state, your coverage continues as long as premiums continue to be paid." So, we can keep this benefit at least.
 
Hey Brainshung...
Existing employees are screwed too.
If you wish to take the lump sum in, you lose hundreds of thousands and even into the millions of dollars of future value.
 
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