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Livermore may trim contract workers

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By Roger Snodgrass

Livermore may trim contract workersThe new managers of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory raised the possibility of cutting contract jobs on Monday, just as Los Alamos National Laboratory managers did last year.Livermore officials said as many as 500 workers may face layoffs due to budget pressures under the new managers.The cuts would mostly affect contract employees who provide support and supplemental services, according to the Associated Press, quoting Susan Houghton, a LLNL spokespersonLivermore Laboratory National Security (LLNC) assumed the California laboratory’s contract in October. The partnership is made up of the same major components, the University of California and Bechtel, as Los Alamos National Security (LANS), which assumed the contract to operate Los Alamos National Laboratory on June 1, 2006.Under the new contracts in both cases, contractor efficiencies are supposed to make up for additional expenses, including performance fees (or profit), setting up new retirement and benefit accounts, paying any additional executive salaries as well as additional taxes related to a profit-making entity.A LLNL spokesperson attributed the budget pressures to higher taxes and health care costs, under laws applicable to a limited liability company, and added that those costs are expected to be reduced in the future.A spokesperson for LANL said this morning that Los Alamos went through a similar process last year in response to rising costs.“We estimated that the (contractor job) cuts would amount to a range between 300 and 600,” said Kevin Roark in the LANL Communications Office. “It turned out to be fewer than 300, because we were able to make good on a promise to look at cutting costs any way possible to limit the number of job cuts in the contractor force.”The Associated Press said the shortfall for LLNL was estimated at $300 million. These cost-saving cuts are not the same as the workforce planning precautions that the nuclear weapons complex has taken in view of not having a funding bill so far this fiscal year.Without knowing the final disposition of the funding bill for the Department of Energy, the federal administration in charge of the nuclear weapons complex mandated a planning process in case employment reductions would be required.The department is operating on a continuing resolution that has been extended to mid-December, when the Congressional recess beginsRoark said the workforce-restructuring plan is still going to come out, and that the workforce restructuring is separate from what Livermore is doing now. Also expected shortly, affecting both labs is a draft environmental plan with proposals for consolidating the nuclear weapons complex in the coming years.