Director's Corner — March 4, 2008
We have now operated for one month under the ongoing furlough. I continue to press for every avenue of relief that could allow us to stop the furlough later in the fiscal year, my top priority if we receive additional funding. In the meantime, I want to express my admiration and gratitude for your dedication to Fermilab under these very trying circumstances. Your efforts have resulted in a month of good operations for the accelerators and detectors, a safe month, continued production of results and continued development of plans for the future. We have had very constructive interactions regarding the laboratory’s future with the DOE Office of High Energy Physics, with the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel, P5, and with our own FRA Board of Directors.
Over the last two months, we have faced a heavy and much more difficult task: the development of a plan for the layoffs that Fermilab must make to fit into our reduced budget going into the future. I created a task force of senior personnel from divisions and sections to go through every function at the laboratory and make recommendations to me on how we should reduce the workforce while minimizing damage to our overall program. The task force carried out this difficult task by analyzing the present and future needs of the laboratory. They considered only functions, without discussing names. The task force met for many hours almost every day during January. In early February, they made recommendations to me for reductions in various functions carried out by divisions and sections. I then met personally with every division and section head to understand the full impact of these job cuts and to take responsibility for the consequences to our operations for the nearly 200-FTE reduction proposed by the task force. We are now moving to the next step, with each division and section working with our Workforce Development and Resources Section on the actual reductions in force, the people who will be laid off, within each division. Layoffs will affect every area of the laboratory, scientific and support staff alike. We can only proceed to implement our plan after receiving approval by DOE.
The present estimated timeline would have us giving notices to employees sometime in late April or May. Our established policy is to give two weeks notice to the employees who will lose their jobs. The Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) Act would override our policy and require a 60-day notice but only for a layoff of more than 250 employees. We will stay well below that number.
For the next few months, we will be going through a very difficult period. It will be most difficult, of course, for our colleagues who learn they are being laid off. It will also be difficult for those who remain here, as our colleagues and friends leave Fermilab, an institution to which they have dedicated themselves. We are committed as an institution to help our colleagues as much as possible, especially to help those who seek employment elsewhere. We have already taken steps to set up a center staffed with experts in employment matters to serve everyone desiring help to seek new employment. Several firms have expressed interest in hiring our people, and we will be seeking more companies and institutions to help obtain new positions for our colleagues. Meanwhile, as additional information about the layoffs becomes available, we will incorporate it into the Q and A’s that you will find on the dedicated website http://www.fnal.gov/faw/layoffs/.
There is no way to sugar coat it: These are difficult days. As director, I will spare no effort to lead Fermilab through this crisis to a vital future.
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