News 12 at 11, June 18, 2007
AIKEN, SC--- Half of the employees at the Savannah River Ecology Lab are out of a job, but who is out the door is still in question. Now everyone has to sit and wait until the 40 person list is corrected.
Savannah River Ecology Lab's distress call seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
"That's been where all my work has been done, nearly all of it. So yeah, it's my life." says tenured UGA professor Whit Gibbons. He has worked at the Savannah \River Ecology Lab for 39 years.
Now his life's work, and passion, is covered in uncertainty.
Friday, University of Georgia president Dr. Michael Adams sent this three page letter to Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. In it Dr. Adams says the school had made the very difficult decision to terminate 40 employees and relocate tenured professors like Gibbons back to the University's Athens campus.
A move made in response to the DOE's decision to no longer fund the lab's four and a half million dollar budget.
"It's a terrible thing to find out, and a surprising thing to find out." says Gibbons.
Also terrible and surprising for the lab's other 70 full time employees who now don't know if they are one of the 40 people getting a pink slip.
"I've had people calling me all weekend asking me about if I can tell them who's on the list and i've had to tell them yes there is a list, i've seen it but it's not correct." says SREL's Administrative Financial Director Laura Janecek.
Janecek says the list arrived late Friday afternoon, and about one third of it was wrong. The lab's Co Interim Director Carl Strojan confirms the first list of names from the University were incorrect because it listed some employees who are already resigning and others who are permitted to stay on and finish research projects funded by external grants.
Janecek, who knows for sure she is on the list says employees she's talked to are frustrated. "So you're reading in the newspaper that some people are going to lose their job but you don' t know who, you don't know if it's you, or your friend, or people you work with and we may go to work tomorrow and we still may not know."
Gibbons adds, "It weighs on you sure. People around you losing their jobs. People that do important things."
But Gibbons says despite all the controversy, he's still hopeful that the money will come from somewhere, soon.
Gibbons says employees and professors are still holding onto hope that another school will step in and fund the program. As for the list of terminated employees, the lab has not been told when to expect the correct names.
Under Dr. Adams' proposal, those 40 people will work their last day at the end of the month and the lab will officially close its doors sometime next year.