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The voluntary program to reduce the workforce at Los Alamos National Laboratory began Wednesday, after formal approval from the National Nuclear Security Administration.The program is an effort to reduce the workforce by 500-750 employees, in order to avoid an involuntary selection of individuals for lay-offs. If the total reaches 750, that would amount to about 9 percent of regular laboratory employees.Some employees may find they are not eligible to resign. As laboratory director Michael Anastasio explained in previous communications, some employees will not qualify for the restructuring program. Workers in defined classifications with critical skills or strategic responsibilities and managers defined as key personnel under LANL’s government contract will not be allowed leave under the self-selection plan.Eligible employees were to receive notices Wednesday, as were employees who are excluded from the voluntary program. About 7 percent of the workforce will be excluded, Anastasio has said.In an all-employee memo on Wednesday, Laboratory Deputy Director Jan Van Prooyen opened the first phase of the restructuring plan, requesting employees who are interested in stepping down from their jobs to fill out an application before Dec. 6. Another work week is allowed for the employee to change his or her mind – before Dec. 13.Van Prooyen detailed a schedule to notify applicants by Dec. 20, whether their application had been accepted or not.The post-holiday week of Jan. 2 through Jan. 8 would be devoted to employee departure meetings, so that accepted employees would be separated from the laboratory as of Jan. 10.“Today was the first day for people to apply,” said lab spokesman Kevin Roark Wednesday. “The process is fairly well structured, and we won’t announce how many people have applied until folks are notified whether they have been accepted.”Van Prooyen said the laboratory proposal that Anastasio has outlined to employees and state legislators was approved by NNSA, with one main difference.The laboratory had proposed evaluating possible job cuts within its “flexible workforce,” to follow approval of voluntary departures in the first phase. “The flexible workforce is made up of limited term employees and “other contractors,” Roark said, “basically those contractors aside from KSL and PTLA.”Roark said no specific number had been projected for trimming the flexible workforce.“It’s whatever can be done appropriately without damaging the long-term viability of meeting our commitments, and another hedge against the unknown,” he said.Van Prooyen’s memo indicated the laboratory had amended a policy in the Laboratory Administrative Manual “to remove a provision prohibiting a Self-Selection Program.”Citing concern about community impacts, lab officials have scheduled two community information sessions to discuss the workforce restructuring plan next week.Employees were encouraged to consult a special internal website and attend internal laboratory informational sessions, two-hour daily meetings that began Wednesday and continue through Tuesday.The laboratory will host an informational session in Pojoaque from 7-9 p.m. Monday at the Cities of Gold Conference Center. A second meeting is scheduled to take place from 7-9 p.m. Tuesday in Los Alamos at Duane Smith Auditorium.