LANL coalition mulls benefits with new contract

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By Tris DeRoma

Worried about what benefits and retirement packages may look like under a new contract with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities invited one of its advisors to provide insight Friday.

Consultant John Jekowski, of Innovative Technology Partnerships, discussed the options with the coalition.

Los Alamos County Councilor Chris Chandler, Los Alamos’ representative on the board, asked Jekowski what the likelihood the current benefits structure will remain intact through the transition process.

“That is the concern of folks that have invested a lot of time in the laboratory, what’s going to happen to my retirement, what’s going to happen to my benefits.” Jekowski said. “The way I read the draft RFP, they’re marching more toward industry standards for benefits packages. “There’s a rule of thumb that’s used now that bidders can’t offer more than a 105 percent of the benefits that would be identified by a statistical analysis by credentialed benefits providers.”

Jekowski also said he and his colleagues have been watching the contract transition process now occurring at Sandia National Laboratories closely.

“I know the managing contractor there has made a special effort with NNSA to ensure as smooth a transition as possible, at least for this year,” Jekowksi said. “But, come the new fiscal year in October, we may see some changes to that as negotiations continue with DOE and NNSA to bring the benefits for all these national laboratories more in line with the private sector.”

Chandler also wanted to know how realistic would it be to have retirement and benefits language from the old contract carried into the new contract.

Jekowski said he didn’t know, but he also said the NNSA does seemed concerned about the issue, and seemed willing to work with the contractors.

During the comment period after the draft RFP was issued, an organization representing LANL retirees, the Laboratory Retiree Group, submitted their concerns as well.

The group asked the NNSA for the right to participate in any change in the current plans by a new contractor.

“The LRG recommends that employees and retirees affected by any change or termination of retirement or other benefit plan have the opportunity to comment and participate in the decision to change or terminate a plan,” LRG said in its comments to the NNSA. “The LRG is very concerned about the lack of a requirement for involvement by current employees and retirees in a decision about a change that may have a profound effect on their well being and lives.”

The LRG also reminded the NNSA about the lab’s unique location, how the lab’s strategic position also puts the workers at a disadvantage when it comes to other national laboratory workers.

“Although access to Los Alamos is easier now, it, remains more isolated than much of the rest of the nation,” LRG said.

As a result, Los Alamos and the northern New Mexico region must rely on a limited range of choices for goods and services. Within the region, and in New Mexico, there is an increasing shortage of medical doctors, nurses and health care facilities.”

The NNSA is expected to release the actual RFP in late September or early October.