Connecticut Department of Labor Issuing Layoff Notices to Nearly 100 Employees

The state Department of Labor is notifying dozens of employees Wednesday of layoffs resulting from "reduced federal funding," according to the state's office of policy and management.

Ninety-five positions are being eliminated from the Connecticut Department of Labor, which currently employs about 800 people. In doing so, the department is expected to achieve "recurring savings" of more than $16 million, according to the office of policy management. About 700 Department of Labor employees are paid through federal funding. The layoffs are effective Oct. 1.

Additional layoff notices could go out in the coming weeks, according to the office of policy management.

With the staff reductions also comes a drop in the amount of American Job Centers the state has. There are currently 11 and after consolidation there will only be six, located in Danielson, Bridgeport, Hamden, Hartford, New London and Waterbury. Department of Labor adjudication locations will be consolidated to Bridgeport, Middletown and the Central Office.

The consolidations will also reduce the number of field audit locations to six, located in Bridgeport, Danielson, Hartford, Middletown, New London, Waterbury and the Central Office, cut down the appeals locations to two at Waterbury and Middletown and merging the two call centers to the Middletown location, according to the office of policy management.

DOL communications director Nancy Steffens previously pointed to a lack of federal funding as the aggravating factor. The Connecticut DOL weighs heavily on federal dollars, receiving 90 percent of its funding from the federal government.

When unemployment goes down, the federal formula that calculates how much aid a state receives also tends to drop, according to the office of policy management. Connecticut's unemployment rate is currently 5.7 percent, which is a drop from more than 9 percent in 2010 and 2011.

Collective bargaining agreements covering the Department of Labor employees require the state to provide staff with at least six weeks notice for layoffs.

State officials report that at least six other states in the country, including Rhode Island, have had to lay off employees because of drops in federal funding.

This year's federal funding shortfall is about $28 million, according to Steffens, who said the deficit is expected to climb to $32 million next year. A federal hiring freeze is already in place, but Steffens said it isn't enough.

Employees being laid off will be notified no later than Aug. 19, before the new federal budget year starts Oct. 1, the AFSCME says.

"It was clearly stated to management how disappointed we were with their inability to keep offices open and members employed," AFSCME Local 269 President Xavier Gordon and Vice President Marsha Tulloch wrote in the letter, adding that they hope to decrease the number of layoffs and help affected employees find jobs at other state agencies.

"The Feds have their own problems. They're trying to curtail in a rational way, in this particular case, as the unemployment rate goes down and there really hasn't been, I think, adequate thought on the part of the state to budget for the Department of Labor," said David Cadden, professor of business at Quinnipiac University.

"Several hundred" federally funded employees have been cut over the past few years, according to Steffens.

The state's Placement and Training Committee will be available as a resource to the people laid off to ideally help them find employment opportunities within the state government if possible. Anyone who can't fill a current state job will have re-employment rights for future state positions that open up.

The Department of Labor also is offering transition assistance to the employees being laid off.

“It is extraordinarily difficult to have to reduce staff, especially given the enormous contributions of these Department of Labor employees in getting Connecticut residents back to work during our long struggle to bring down unemployment in the state,” Ben Barnes, secretary of the state's office of policy management, said in a written statement. “We are all fully committed to helping these valuable employees find new positions in state government or elsewhere, as soon as possible.”

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