As you may be aware, top leadership at the University of California and its campuses have, in the last few days, communicated with UC employees about a worsening system-wide budget crisis and its implications for UC’s people. Yesterday, in a letter signed by the chancellors of 10 UC campuses, President Napolitano assured employees that “there will be no COVID-19 related layoffs for all career employees through the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2020.”
We’re writing to you today with both a clarification and a reassurance. The reassurance is that Berkeley Lab is not currently considering layoffs, COVID-related or otherwise, and in fact exists in a distinctly different fiscal context from UC and its campuses. While UC campuses are dealing with a number of pandemic-related disruptions on both the income and expenses sides of the ledger, as a U.S. National Laboratory we derive our income primarily from federal government sources and do not, for example, rely in large part on state funding, student tuition and fees, residence hall fees, and other education-related revenues.
This takes us to a very important clarification, which we would like you to keep top of mind in the coming weeks and months as UC and its campuses continue to grapple with and communicate about their fiscal scenarios.
Here is the clarification: Although we are UC employees, many UC actions do not directly or immediately apply to Berkeley Lab or its employees.
This is because the Lab, as a Federally Funded Research and Development Center, operates in a different context than other UC locations, including a requirement that we align our actions not only with UC, but also with the DOE and relevant federal regulations. This means that whenever UC announces changes to pay, benefits, leaves, staffing policies, and other matters, it can take us some time to determine whether and to what extent they are consistent and aligned with our DOE contract and other federal regulations. We must then work out the implications for the Lab and implement related policies as closely matched as is allowable under our DOE contract.
To this point, as many of you are aware, Congress recently passed the CARES Act, and that law authorizes DOE to allow government contractors, including Berkeley Lab, to pay administrative leave to those employees who are not on site and are unable to telecommute due to the nature of their jobs. While this section of the law does not appear to directly apply to UC campuses, it does apply to us at Berkeley Lab. And we are currently working with DOE to implement this law at Berkeley Lab to help protect the pay of our workforce. We are doing so with the clear understanding that the 16 days of paid administrative leave previously authorized may be running out for some of our employees.
Please know that we are doing everything in our power to minimize the financial impacts of this unprecedented event on all our people. We have said this before: there is no playbook for a global pandemic. We are adapting and learning as we go. We are aware that the uncertainty this situation brings can cause anxiety, but please know that our leadership team is doing everything within our authority to ensure our people are taken care of and protected from hazards, including the coronavirus itself and the financial impact caused by it. By continuing to collaborate with each other as we have done over these past three weeks, our laboratory will emerge from this pandemic as an even more resilient scientific community.
Please watch for updates on the Lab’s status via email, in Elements, at status.lbl.gov, on our COVID-19 website, or on Twitter @LBNLstatus. Thank you, again, for your continued support of Berkeley Lab’s mission in these difficult circumstances.
Deputy Lab Director and Chief Operating Officer