Employees at Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories may be furloughed if a federal budget is not passed by October 18. But unlike federal employees, the 7,500 people who work at the Livermore based national laboratories are contracted through private companies with the US government, therefore they don’t qualify for furlough back pay like federal employees.
Lawrence Livermore will receive government funding through the Oct. 18 and a representative told KTVU Sunday that they were still working on plans should furloughs occur. Only staff essential to the facilities would be maintained and the representative estimated that would mean around 400 employees.
Representative Eric Swalwell spoke to a packed conference room of lab employees Sunday about his efforts to guarantee them retro-pay should the labs be furloughed. Swalwell has sent a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Energy requesting that contracted employees at the national laboratories be treated like fulltime federal staff facing similar furloughs.
At the meeting lab employees expressed frustration over the uncertainty.
“We’re at the mercy of the Dept. of Energy,” said Alfredo Morales, a Sandia chemist.
Others said they were concerned about how furloughs without pay may hurt not just lab employees, but the greater Tri-Valley economy.
“We’re concerned about our daycare provider if we have to pull our children out. They live paycheck to paycheck,” said Libby Glascow who works with her husband at Lawrence Livermore Lab.
While Rep. Swalwell works for a short term solution he said the lasting chill of the government may be more serious. He said if national laboratory scientists seek work in the private sector the US government could lose a talented workforce due to the instability the government shutdown has created.
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