Oak Ridge National Laboratory plans to cut 350 positions by the end of 2017

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

OAK RIDGE (WATE) — Funding cuts from the Department of Energy have forced the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to reduce their workforce.

A letter went out to staff by Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thomas Zacharia on Tuesday saying the Department of Energy has approved a Workforce Restructuring Plan proposed by UT-Battelle that will reduce ORNL’s workforce by up to 350 positions by the end of the calendar year. He said the reductions will be made primarily among staff who are not directly related to research and some research staff affected by FY17 funding who could not be placed elsewhere in the lab.

A spokesperson from ORNL released a statement saying, “the staff reduction offers an opportunity for the laboratory to reduce its costs and redirect funding toward growth areas. The reduction in staff, as well as other efforts to streamline operations, will allow ORNL to maintain a competitive cost of doing business while freeing resources for discretionary investments in core scientific and technical capabilities at the lab.”

Initially, a self-select voluntary separation program will open on Monday, August 14, according to ORNL. Employees can apply from August 14 to September 27. Accepted employees will leave the payroll by December 31.

Below is the letter that was sent to staff at ORNL from Zacharia:

In recent years, the leadership of Oak Ridge National Laboratory has worked to contain the cost of doing business in order to be a good steward of taxpayer funding, to maximize resources available for strategic investment, and to keep Lab costs competitive with our peers.

We’ve controlled chargeout rates, consolidated operations, and contained health-care costs. We’ve also increased investment in lab-directed research and development, expanded key programs, and continued modernizing the campus.

Thank you for your focus amid these changes. Your disciplined inquiry into difficult challenges, creative collaborations, and leadership in your fields will ensure ORNL’s position as one of the world’s premier research institutions. My goal is to support these efforts — to minimize distractions, effectively allocate resources, and reward excellence.

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. To allow us to provide for our research missions and to allocate resources most productively, the Department of Energy has approved a Workforce Restructuring Plan proposed by UT-Battelle that will reduce ORNL’s workforce by up to 350 positions by the end of the calendar year.

These reductions will be made primarily among staff who charge to indirect accounts, along with some research staff affected by FY17 funding who could not be placed elsewhere in the Lab. By reducing these positions, ORNL will be able to maintain competitive chargeout rates while freeing resources for discretionary investments that will modernize Lab infrastructure and maintain core research capabilities in the mission areas assigned to ORNL.

Initially, a Self-Select Voluntary Separation Program (VSP) will open on Monday, August 14. Employees can apply for the VSP from August 14 to September 27. Management reserves the right to deny any application, and employees will be notified whether their application has been accepted. Accepted employees will leave the payroll by December 31.

Meetings to explain details and eligibility for the VSP will begin this week. Dates, times, and locations are available at https://portal09.ornl.gov/sites/hrd/vsp, along with answers to likely questions and more information about the VSP process. We are hopeful that the VSP will provide for all necessary staff reductions. If more are needed, an Involuntary Separation Plan (ISP) will be implemented.

The most effective way to navigate uncertain times is by demonstrating leadership — by being the best at what we do. Excellence and adaptability have been hallmarks of ORNL throughout its history, and the Department of Energy has entrusted us with uniquely powerful scientific tools that enable exceptional capabilities. Thank you for your continued commitment to ORNL’s missions in energy, scientific discovery, national security, and industrial competitiveness.

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