PNNL completes round of job cuts totaling 212

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has completed a round of job cuts that began in March with 212 layoffs.

That includes 113 people who volunteered for layoffs and 99 involuntary layoffs. The lab employed 4,758 workers before the reductions began.

In March, the Department of Energy approved a work force restructuring plan for its national lab based in Richland, which is required if the total number of layoffs in a rolling 12 months is 100 or more.

The lab already had laid off 70 people from early spring 2011 to early spring 2012, before officials began considering more job cuts because of the fiscal 2012 federal budget.

Then lab officials hoped additional layoffs starting in the spring could be kept to fewer than 100. That's still a good number for job reductions tied to the fiscal 2012 budget, said Greg Koller, PNNL spokesman.

But then it became evident that the fiscal 2013 budget likely would drop slightly from the current year and more layoffs would be needed.

Lab officials assigned staff who were losing their positions to other jobs when possible and left some positions vacant when they became open.

The involuntary layoffs were a last resort, Koller said.

Cuts included research and support staff positions and touched most areas of the lab, including environmental and national security research and building maintenance and operations and procurement, Koller said.

The lab also has expedited a plan to use new technologies to improve some business processes, including making some work less labor-intensive. Staff reductions were made that would have been done eventually because of the new technology.

All laid-off workers received the lab's standard severance package, which includes one week of pay for each full year of work up to a maximum of 20 weeks.

"I sincerely appreciate the impact that our former colleagues have had here at the lab, both personally and professionally, and I wish them well in their future endeavors," said lab director Mike Kluse in a message to staff Monday.

The lab will know more about budgets for fiscal 2013 and 2014 as Congress makes budget decisions through March, he said.

"In the meantime, we do not believe that we will have any additional significant workforce reductions through the end of this calendar year," he said.

The lab recently gave its annual strategy presentation to DOE, which included a long-term vision, and it was well received, Kluse told staff.

"Throughout the years, we have adapted to changes in national priorities, budget uncertainty and reductions in our funding," he said.

PNNL's wide range of research helps it to weather year-to-year budget changes that can hit some research areas harder than others.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com