Many laid off at UConn Health will still be working there

UConn's John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington

CTMirror File Photo / UConn Health

UConn’s Health Center in Farmington

University of Connecticut Health Center workers represent the second-largest share of Executive Branch layoffs ordered since mid-April, but the savings will be blunted.

That’s because of the 155 people who have been laid off at the Health Center – one-fifth of all state employees laid off so far – only 35 of them actually will no longer work there. The remainder, though they have been laid off, have been reassigned at lower pay with either a new job description or a work week reduced from 40 to 36 hours.

These workers and their families still will be entitled to state health benefits since they still will be considered full-time.

In total, these layoffs, reduced hours and other strategic changes at the hospital and medical school in Farmington will save $6 million.

The state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 relies on $325 million in labor-related savings. That involves $255 million in reductions to agency salary accounts and $69 million in extra “general employee” savings to be found by the Malloy administration after the fiscal year begins.

The governor announced in April he expected to eliminate 2,500 state jobs by mid-June. The bulk, about 1,900 to 2,000 would come from layoffs, and the remainder from retirements in the final three months of the 2015-16 fiscal year.

A mid-June deadline was set, Malloy said, to ensure the state could reap the savings from these job cuts both during the last two pay periods of the outgoing fiscal year and during all of 2016-17.

But through Friday the administration had announced just 825 Executive Branch layoffs, including the 155 at UConn Health. Combined with 239 layoffs ordered by the Judicial Branch, 1,064 permanent positions — about half of what the governor projected — appeared to have been eliminated.

Spring retirements compensated for some of that shortfall. According to Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo’s office, 947 retirement requests have been filed since April 1.

Still, that means layoffs and retirements combined are more than 500 positions shy of the target the governor had hoped to reach by mid-June.

At other state agencies, many workers who have received layoff notices have been rehired for another state job. However, the governor’s Office of Policy and Management reports that won’t impact the 670 positions it has decided to eliminate to save money. The people that have been rehired so far are largely the result of union contracts that allow a more senior employee who was laid off to replace, or “bump,” an employee hired after them if qualified for that job.

“What we report for people receiving layoff notices is not the same as people who are separated from service,” said Gian-Carl Casa, a spokesman for the governor’s budget office. “There is no estimate, at this point, of statewide savings.”

It may soon become more clear just how many layoffs various state agencies will have to make to balance their budgets.

The governor’s budget chief last month wrote to state agency leaders to instruct them to “submit plans for operating within available resources for fiscal 2017. If you envision fiscal 2017 headcount reductions beyond those already reviewed and approved by this office, please contact your assigned analyst as soon as possible for more detailed guidance about the information we will need and the steps you must take before such reductions can be implemented.”

Those plans are due today.

A spokesman for the Office of Policy and Management said Thursday it had not received any plans yet from state agencies.

At UConn Health, the layoffs fell on The Correctional Managed Health Care division, which is responsible for providing health care to the more than 17,000 prison inmates in Connecticut.

“These workforce reductions and other internal cost-saving measures were required given the extraordinary fiscal constraints we, along with most state agencies, are experiencing,” said Lauren Woods, a spokeswoman for the publicly funded center.

The 35 layoffs equate to a 4.3 percent reduction in staff for prisoners. The health center is slated to receive $83 million this fiscal year for providing health services to inmates.

Asked what the impact of these layoffs will be, Woods said, “There are no identifiable changes at this time.”

About Jacqueline Rabe Thomas
jacqueline_rabe

Jacqueline won two first prizes from the national Education Writers Association for her work in 2012 – one in beat reporting for her overall education coverage, and the other, with Keith Phaneuf, in investigative reporting on a series of stories revealing questionable monetary and personnel actions taken by the Board of Regents for Higher Education. Before coming to The Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.'s Maryland newspaper chains. She has also worked for Congressional Quarterly and the Toledo Free Press. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Jacqueline is in the public policy master’s program at Trinity College. E-mail her at jrabe@ctmirror.org.

About Keith M. Phaneuf

Keith, with Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, won first prize in investigative reporting from the Education Writers Association in 2012 for a series of stories on the Board of Regents for Higher Education. The former State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, Keith has spent most of 24 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut's transportation and social services networks. A former contributing writer to The New York Times, Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut. E-mail him at kphaneuf@ctmirror.org.

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