Introducing the Argonne Associate Program
By Paul K. Kearns, Deputy Laboratory Director for Operations and Chief Operations Officer
News can travel fast here in our lab community, which means many people have probably heard that we will soon be changing the way we manage a vital part of our community—special-term appointees, or STAs.
While on the surface the question of how the lab should manage STAs is a legal and financial one, it is also, in reality, an emotional one.
The legal and financial details are this: Effective January 1, 2016, Argonne will no longer directly employ STAs. The lab has contracted with Seville Staffing, LLC, to employ former STAs as Argonne Associates. To clarify, Argonne Associates will be employees of the staffing agency rather than employees of Argonne. As Associates, however, they can continue to perform the same services they have provided as STAs.
(A note: Those STAs whose job requires a security clearance will not transition until Seville obtains a Facility Security Clearance.)
What led to this change? By design, STAs work in a status different from regular Argonne employees. With fluctuating hours on mostly special projects, STAs exercise flexibility that significantly challenged Argonne’s capability to manage legal requirements, risks, and increased costs under the Affordable Care Act, Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and other employment laws. After reviewing various alternatives, the lab determined that a staffing agency with expertise in managing the complexities of contingent workforces is best able to administer the requirements for these types of workers at Argonne.
This process is emotional because many of our STAs worked for Argonne as regular employees for many years before retiring and accepting STA positions. Their deep connections to and knowledge of the lab are impossible to replicate. The fidelity of these Argonne retirees to the lab added urgency to our efforts to find a tenable way to retain the STA workforce and make the transition to a new program as easy as possible.
To facilitate the transition, each STA will receive a letter explaining how they will transfer their employment from Argonne to Seville, including meeting with their supervisor and a Seville representative to complete necessary paperwork and learn new procedures. They’ll also learn about new parameters within the Argonne Associates Program that define how many years an Associate may work for the lab, based on the number of hours they work per year.
In addition, a list of answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) has been posted on the new Argonne Associates Program page on Inside Argonne.
Finally, STAs are invited to a town hall meeting on October 14, 2015, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Building 402, APS Auditorium. I encourage all STAs to join me, other Argonne leaders, and HR personnel to learn more about the Argonne Associates Program and get answers to any questions they may have.
We recognize that some of our current STAs may choose not to become Argonne Associates, and that some who do become Associates may one day no longer perform work for the lab due to the term parameters mentioned above. However, these employees will always be part of the Argonne community. We plan to establish an Argonne Alumni Association to ensure our retired colleagues can continue to enjoy the relationships they have developed throughout their careers and contribute to Argonne’s future by sharing their exceptional experiences with new generations of scientists. Anyone interested in volunteering to help create the Argonne Alumni Association can contact Vivian Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 2-1890.
Changing the way we have done business for a long time is challenging but necessary. I ask that everyone support our valuable Argonne Associates and that we all work together to keep Argonne strong into the future.