From SPSE/UPTE July monthly memo:
The End of Lab Associates Erodes Both Institutional Expertise and Individual Benefits
Rather than bring recently shrunken retiree medical benefits into compliance with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS) management eliminated an entire job classification: the Lab Associates. Lab Associates are Lab retirees, many with decades of expertise, who work less than 1000 hours per year and are paid by the hour. They neither get regular employee health benefits nor earn sick or vacation leave.
The Lab’s lawyers have determined that for purposes of compliance with the ACA, Lab Associates are Lab employees, but their employer-provided health care benefit, the retiree health care benefit, does not meet the requirements of the ACA. Instead of fixing the retiree health care plan to bring it into compliance with the ACA, Lab management decided instead to terminate all the Lab Associates. Every one of them --- we think some 200 in all --- received letters terminating their employment with the Lab. Some fraction of them --- and we have been unable to determine that fraction --- will continue in their current assignments, but as Akima employees --- subcontractors --- rather than as Lab employees, at approximately twice the cost to the programs at the Lab that benefit from the experience and expertise that Lab Associates bring.
The loss of Lab Associates is but the latest consequence of a steady erosion of pay and retirement benefits since the privatization of the Lab in 2007. This erosion in pay and benefits is consistent with a national trend toward increasing income inequality (see April 2014 monthly memo). LLNS management has proven unwilling and unable to buck this national trend. Consequently, many SPSE-UPTE members now face financial hardships, and a few face financial disasters, such as eviction or foreclosure and consequent loss of their home.
The erosion of retirement benefits has hit both active employees and retirees hard. The erosion began with the elimination of the Defined Benefit Plan (pension) available to employees hired after the transition from UC management to LLNS management. Then, those transitioning employees who opted to roll over their UC pension funds into the new company’s pension plan (TCP-1) were hit with a big increase in employee contributions that were not offset by pay increases. Then, Lab retirees were thrown off the old retiree medical plans, and instead given a fixed sum (either $1200 per year for a single retiree or $2400 per year for a retiree with a dependent spouse) with which to purchase supplemental health insurance on the open market. For many, if not most, retirees this change meant a huge increase in out-of-pocket costs for health insurance.
SPSE-UPTE’s fix for the loss of Lab Associates is medical benefits for all retirees that comply with the standards of the ACA. SPSE-UPTE’s fix would retain institutional access to capabilities possessed by all Lab Associates, rather than a subset hired through a subcontractor.
We welcome your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to any SPSE-Board member, including President-Elect William Smith at Smith324@llnl.gov. We also solicit your help in advocating for all Lab employees and retirees by joining SPSE-UPTE if you are not already a member.