LIVERMORE -- To prepare for projected budget challenges in 2014, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory is offering buyouts to as many as 600 workers willing to take a voluntary layoff.
The Self-Select Voluntary Separation Program plan was announced by lab Director Parney Albright at an "all-hands" meeting with employees Wednesday. In that scenario, the lab would pay qualified employees a severance package of one week of salary per year of service for up to 26 weeks.
The program began Wednesday and is being offered to all career full-time employees until May 23.
"This is a Fiscal Year 2014 pre-emptive strike if you will," said lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver. "We received the budget proposal, and even with the way it stands, we're going to have some challenges with our workforce."
According to Seaver, as currently drawn up, President Barack Obama's budget request for Fiscal Year 2014 allocates $1.48 billion to the lab. Factoring in sequestration, Seaver said the figure represents about a 10 percent cut from the lab's 2013 budget. The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Albright said that by implementing the voluntary program now, the lab would get a jump on what is expected to be an "uphill battle in Congress this summer, with continuing debates about reducing federal spending, a possible FY14 sequester and the debt ceiling," according to a news release.
After the application deadline and an eight-day review process, exits from the lab are scheduled for June 13. Employees who apply and are approved can collect the payouts in a lump sum or through bi-weekly payments. Employees who have been approved and change their minds have seven days to rescind.
Seaver said the lab has "no target" for how many jobs must be eliminated or dollars saved through voluntary layoffs. "This is a voluntary separation," Seaver reiterated. "We're hoping enough people apply."
Although not in play now, involuntary layoffs are not off the table, Seaver said.
After the voluntary separations are done, the lab will review its staffing situation, she said.
The voluntary separation program was approved by the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.