Lab managers have approved 204 of the 302 applications submitted for a voluntary separation program that could reduce the workforce at Oak Ridge National Laboratory by up to 350 positions.
The Self-Select Voluntary Separation Program was announced by ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia in an August 8 email to employees. ORNL employees were able to apply for the program from Monday, August 14, to Wednesday, September 27. Applicants were notified October 25 whether their application was approved, according to information provided on Friday by Morgan McCorkle, ORNL media relations manager.
Accepted applicants will leave the payroll by December 31.
Applications were approved from staff who charge to indirect accounts, along with some research staff affected by fiscal year 2017 funding who could not be placed elsewhere in the lab.
“Elimination of these positions will allow ORNL to maintain competitive chargeout rates while freeing resources for discretionary investments and to maintain core research capabilities in the mission areas assigned to ORNL,” according to the information provided by McCorkle. A chargeout rate is a rate that DOE uses to measure cost effectiveness.
The Workforce Restructuring Plan was proposed by UT-Battelle and approved by the U.S. Department of Energy. It allows for a reduction of up to 350 positions through voluntary and involuntary separations. UT-Battelle manages the laboratory for the DOE Office of Science.
“Laboratory management is now considering the extent of involuntary separations required,” the ORNL information said. Information on involuntary separation efforts will be provided as details are finalized, the lab said.
The 350-position reduction would decrease the workforce of 4,800 employees by about 7.3 percent.
“From time to time, sustaining our work effectively and efficiently requires the most difficult of decisions, which is to reduce our staff in certain areas of the lab,” Zacharia said in the early August email.
Oak Ridge Today has previously reported that the workforce reduction could save $34 million per year in personnel costs, and the lab expected most of those who apply for voluntary separations to be of retirement age.
In August, McCorkle said the lab plans to reduce about 250 overhead positions and 100 research and development jobs. Overhead jobs are those not directly related to research. The research and development staff who will be eligible for voluntary separations are those who charge more than half of their time to overhead accounts or whose program budgets were reduced in fiscal year 2017, McCorkle said.
The voluntary separations and the involuntary separations, if necessary, will both give employees standard severance benefits of one week’s pay for each year’s service for up to 25 years (or based on contract terms for members of the bargaining unit).
ORNL has previously said that the workforce reductions are not related to the budget for fiscal year 2018, which started October 1. The lab expects to evaluate the effects of future funding once the fiscal year 2018 budgets are complete.
It may not be ORNL’s largest workforce reduction in recent years. In February 2011, ORNL announced a voluntary separation package, and 161 applications were accepted. Later that same year, 220 applications were accepted. That’s a total of 381 voluntary separations in 2011.
There was another voluntary separation program that was announced in September 2013 that reduced staff by 189.
A workforce reduction was also announced in August for Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, New York. At that time, Brookhaven planned to reduce its workforce by 6.5 percent, or 175 jobs, over the next few months, according to media reports in New York and Connecticut. Those buyouts were primarily being offered to support staff, and they were expected to help the lab reduce its costs and redirect funding toward growth areas, according to Newsday in Melville, New York. BNL has about 2,700 employees.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See previous story here.
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