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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The End of Lab Associates Erodes Both Institutional Expertise and Individual Benefits

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 spse@spse.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.


24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I always thought that was an expensive boondoggle that made it harder to hire young new (and cheap) staff, and I for one am glad to see retirees really leave when they retire. Not a lot of sympathy here. If you don't want to retire, don't retire, and if you want to keep working then consult as an independent contractor.

Anonymous said...

LLNS and LANS are in cahoots with the Federal Government to rob thousands of hard working, American Patriots of their justly earned benefits. It is criminal.

Anonymous said...

So some LLNL/LLNS employees that elected to retire, come back as paid Lab associates and while doing so, collect a pension and a Lab Associate hourly salary.

LLNS management has decided to drop the Lab Associate form of employment rather than comply
with ACA medical standards in order to save money presumably (?).

A subset of these former lab associates might be offered Akima assignments to continue making contributions to LLNS missions. The impact is ~2X higher costs to the programs to pay for the Akima version of lab retiree support.

Question 1:

By avoiding ACA costs, LLNS increases its corporate profits, while increasing the program cost of Lab Associate talent by 2X?

Question 2:

What are the specific benefits lost to the Lab Associates which are defined as lab retirees? Will they see a lower hourly salary, etc.?

Question 3:

Lab retirees should not voluntarily retire predicated upon another assignment at their former company in any form. Is this a reasonable statement?

Question 4:

If the programs are faced with a 2X cost increase for a Lab retiree, then regular employees may be placed in EIT status so that programs can pay for this new overhead expense?

Anonymous said...

Lab associates take jobs away from new young staff while double-dipping off the pension system. If you want to retire, retire and go play golf. If not, don't retire.

Anonymous said...

"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."

Let's be clear. LLNS and LANS were intentionally created to further the increasing income inequality -- specifically the inequality of income between senior managers and lab employees. If you don't believe this, compare the difference of highest to lowest salaries when managed by UC with the difference now. Furthermore, privitization of the labs created an entirely new class of highly compensated deadbeats -- the "Board of Governers," who as far as anyone can tell have done nothing to help the labs in troubled times. What a scam! Congress should be ashamed, if they had a single moral bone in their collective body! Someone get a rope!

Anonymous said...

By avoiding ACA costs, LLNS increases its corporate profits...

LLNS profits are determined as the performance award finding from NNSA. A dollar of expense forgone is not immediately an increase in LLC profits.

Lab retirees should not voluntarily retire predicated upon another assignment at their former company in any form. Is this a reasonable statement?

I believe under the governing Federal statutes or regs, it is illegal for any organization to transition someone to their pension with an understanding of follow-on employment in any capacity.

Anonymous said...

"...If you don't believe this, compare the difference of highest to lowest salaries when managed by UC with the difference now..."

Where are the LLNS salary lists (2007-2014) to compare with UC/LLNL salary lists?

Anonymous said...

Disproportionately high LLNS manager salaries with the understanding their management decisions and actions will not be transparent. This is not a favorable combination of management benefits for the LLNS worker bees.

"...The Ring of Gyges is a mythical magical artifact mentioned by the philosopher Plato in book 2 of his Republic. It granted its owner the power to become invisible at will. Through the story of the ring, Republic considers whether an intelligent person would be moral if he did not have to fear being caught and punished..."

Anonymous said...

Well written letter, Bill.

LLNL's Human Resources organization has weighed its programs and divisions down with burdensome edicts and foolish policy interpretations that continue to undermine LLNL effectiveness.

The importance of the new Human Resource organization mistakes emerged during the lab privatization in 2007 when it an became independent entity staffed by new hires taking policy interpretations directly from NNSA policy makers under an inexperienced and unloyal Bechtel-appointed manager.

Directly, responsiveness to the effective workers at the lab: programs, projects and directorates declined as newly independant Human Resource managers protected their own prerogatives: tailoring wages, working conditions, job descriptions, promotions and hiring to their notion of industry practices rather than continuing the proven, successful, responsive best practices developed at LLNL that made it very effective over the previous 50 years.

The Director and the senior management council continue a fundamental mistake by subordinating the human resources function within each directorate rather than empowering it independant entity.

The current weaknesses visited upon LLNL by human resource managers mistakes can be rectified by putting them in an existing Scientific directorate under a strong, LLNL trained leader.

Thusly weakened, it will be a much more effective partner in accomplishing the things important to the Lab's mission, while not having the power to enforce it's otherwise unproductive or even hurtful initiatives.

If programs need to use lab retirees part-time to achieve programmatic goals, human resources should snap to in support and get the job accomplished. As designed it is ineffective and should be reorganized.

Anonymous said...

"...The importance of the new Human Resource organization mistakes emerged during the lab privatization in 2007 when it an became independent entity staffed by new hires taking policy interpretations directly from NNSA policy makers under an inexperienced and unloyal Bechtel-appointed manager..."

Did this "unloyal Bechtel-appointed manager" have a last name that rhymes with "chills"?

Anonymous said...

Let's also not forget that this event was triggered by Obamacare requirements. The government always underestimates the collateral damage of everything they turn into law.

Anonymous said...

LLNL's response to this EXTERNAL trigger is deficient, unimaginative and weak; a characteristic of post-2007 private lab responses to external foolishness.

It is not at all similar to the effective UC-managed problem-solvers that populated pre-2007 LLNL.

The team is weak

Anonymous said...

"You told me you loved me" Put your pants back on and stop your crying!

"We all live on the reservation now" Harold Means.

Get used to it people it's just the beginning. Socialism is great until they take your piece of pie away. HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

POS

Anonymous said...

"Get used to it people it's just the beginning. Socialism is great until they take your piece of pie away. HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

POS

August 4, 2014 at 6:13 PM"

I take you are so crazed and bitter because you never got a piece of the pie that felt you where entitled to. Here is a hint, in the real world you have to earn it. The one you should blame for your failure at life is yourself.

Anonymous said...

Go get 'em, POS!

Anonymous said...

Lab Associates take jobs away from young staff, killing our ability to move forward. If you want to retire, retire and go play golf. If you don't want to retire, don't retire.

Anonymous said...

Congress requires the contract to be rebid. Congress passes the ACA. It would seem that the lab is a victim of unintended consequences from our duly elected officials. Now what are the odds of that?

Anonymous said...

Ah, what imagery! Pelosi and Feinstein.

Anonymous said...

three-way - add Boxer

Anonymous said...

Solution: They come back as retired but unpaid lab "affiliates" (guests) and work for free. Who doesn't like getting free labor!

With the latest report from the Conference of Mayors indicating US salaries for the middle class have dropped by an amazing 23% since 2008, the next step is labor that is totally free of pay.


Anonymous said...

With the latest report from the Conference of Mayors indicating US salaries for the middle class have dropped by an amazing 23% since 2008, the next step is labor that is totally free of pay.


Of course salaries have dropped since 2008. Americans are lazy and think they are entitled to high salaries. This is what we deserve.

Anonymous said...

It's simple math.

Any significant additions to the lower paid half of the workforce, such as new, younger baby-bump employees and undocumented low-skill aliens reduce the national average salary. This may be a desirable outcome since they are working to their full potential at that moment.

I want both my kids and my undocumented friends working...but they reduce the salary average.

I also want fellows to get rich by making giant meritorious contributions to society... when major contributions occur, as a hybrid car, a chick flic or a new APP, I benefit as a consumer, even though the salary gap increases..

Envy is not an economic principle, it is an emotion.

Anonymous said...

Envy is not an economic principle, it is an emotion.

And an economy, be it market based or any other, is a human institution and thus emotions are part of the mix. Heck, if we took emotion out of it, Madison Avenue would hardly sell anything.

Anonymous said...

Well at least he has a Ph.D.

Three Vice Presidents of technical divisions at Sandia National Laboratories do not have a Ph.D.: Hruby, Walker, Vahle.

Adam Rowen a manager at Sandia Livermore does not have a Ph.D. either.

The previous 3 individuals are the first ever Vice Presidents without a Ph.D. in Science or Engineering to lead technical divisions at Sandia. A quick search on the internet shows that Adam Rowen went to a school in New Mexico.

Steve Renfro deputy AD Nuclear Weapons, BS without PhD (also comes from a New Mexico school)

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