Lawrence Livermore Lays Off Scientists | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: May 23, 2008

Lawrence Livermore Lays Off Scientists

Terminations are the first for permanent employees in 35 years
Department: Government & Policy
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DEMORALIZED
LLNL employees, many wearing black to signify mourning for the layoffs, wave to colleagues departing the lab on May 22.
Credit: Jyllian Kemsley/C&EN
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DEMORALIZED
LLNL employees, many wearing black to signify mourning for the layoffs, wave to colleagues departing the lab on May 22.
Credit: Jyllian Kemsley/C&EN

To contain costs, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) laid off 440 permanent career employees, including 164 scientists, on May 22 and 23, lab spokeswoman Susan M. Houghton says. This is the first time since 1973 that the lab has laid off permanent staff, she adds.

In January, LLNL terminated 450 temporary contract employees, Houghton says. The lab then offered early retirement packages to permanent employees, 215 of whom took the offer. She says the lab expects to terminate an additional 100 contract personnel by June 30. Adding in normal attrition, contract completion, and retirements, LLNL will be down about 2,000 people to a total workforce of about 6,600 people by July, she says.

“Morale is terrible,” says Jeffrey D. Colvin, a physicist who works in the lab’s Chemistry, Materials, Earth & Life Sciences Directorate. “It’s very depressing even for those of us not getting notices. We have to say good-bye to long-term colleagues.” When C&EN spoke with Colvin—a 25-year lab veteran—on May 22, he wasn’t sure if he’d get a layoff notice on May 23.

LLNL spared scientific staff affiliated with the National Ignition Facility, a laser facility that will enable study of nuclear fusion for weapons and energy applications, Houghton says. Otherwise, the job cuts are spread across the sciences and include an unknown number of chemists. She says layoff decisions were based not on seniority—110 of the scientists had been at the lab for more than 10 years—but on ability. The lab retained people with skills it deemed critical for future research programs, she says.

The layoffs at LLNL come after an October 2007 change in management from the University of California (UC) to a private company, Lawrence Livermore National Security. The company is a consortium including Bechtel Corp., UC, Babcock & Wilcox, the Washington Division of URS Corp., and Battelle. In addition to reducing the workforce, Houghton says, the lab has also implemented cost-cutting measures such as curtailing travel and shuttering office spaces. LLNL’s operating budget for fiscal 2008 is approximately $1.6 billion.

 
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