Bechtel and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: Another Privatization Story

BY KAY MATTHEWS

Los Alamos National Laboratory is not the only nuclear facility in the country that has suffered massive layoffs since its privatization, when Bechtel and the University of California formed a limited liability corporation—Los Alamos National Security— to manage it. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in California, under management of the Bechtel-based Lawrence Livermore National Security (University of California, BWX Technologies, Inc. and Washington Group International, Inc.)—laid off 440 career employees in 2008, citing a budget short-fall of $280 million. The rationale for the privatization of management at both labs was to provide “cost savings, greater efficiency, increased employment, and improved security.”

One hundred and thirty of those employees have filed a wrongful termination suit against LLNS and are represented by the Bay area law firm of Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer. The employees claim that LLNS specifically targeted the highest salaried senior staff members who were closest to retirement. The average age of the 130 plaintiffs is 55 years, their average time on the job is 20 years, and all of the 130 plaintiffs are over the age of 40. The specific causes of action in the lawsuit are mind boggling: Retaliation, Disability Discrimination, Violation of California Family Rights Act, Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy, Race/National Origin Discrimination, Gender Discrimination, Sexual Orientation Discrimination, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Breach of Express or Implied Contract, Breach of Implied Covent of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, and Violation of Constitutional Right to Continued Employment.

 In a recent development in the case, Dr. Robert L. Civiak, a Ph.D physicist with 30 years consulting experience specializing in budget and policy issues relating to nuclear weapons, wrote a scathing declaration that sheds light on LLNS management practices.

LLNS maintains that the layoff of career employees in April 2008 was necessitated by a lack of funds. However, based on my review, I have determined LLNS had sufficient funds to avoid any involuntary layoffs. I believe that LLNS intentionally overstated it’s budget problems in 2008 and arbitrarily chose to address an invented $280 million shortfall, eventually with involuntary layoffs of career employees.”

These findings are reminiscent of LANL’s recent claim that 400-800 employees had to be laid off because of budget shortfalls, which we wrote about on March 17, “Los Alamos National Laboratory: A Plague on Your House.” In the Lawrence Livermore case, according to Dr. Civiak the 2008 budgetary parameters were known well before LLNS took over managing the Lab in October 2007 and “any suggestion that a surprise budget shortfall led LLNS to invoke involuntary layoffs of career employees is false.”

The following video is posted on the Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer law firm web site and shows five of the employees telling stories about their treatment by the the Lawrence Lab.

In our March 30 story, “Bechtel and Los Alamos National Laboratory: The Privatization of the Nuclear Industry,” we wrote about Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to force the National Nuclear Security Administration to release Performance Evaluation Reports for its eight nuclear weapons sites. With 130 plaintiffs slated to go to trial against Lawrence Livermore National Security for wrongful termination, the NNSA still praised LLNS for its hiring practices.

“The Contractor (LLNS) has maintained a consistent outstanding level of performance in . . . strategic human resources management (SHRM). . . .  Under strong leadership in those areas, Contractor (LLNS) has successfully enabled its strategic human resources management team to produce outstanding results in several areas that have resulted in improved employee performance, enabled timely decision making by management, and supports accountability. . .”

La Jicarita will follow the lawsuit when it goes to trial in October of 2012.

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