State gives pink slips to 95 labor department workers

State Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy


State Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration announced early Wednesday it has given layoff notices to 95 Department of Labor employees whose positions no longer are supported with federal funding.

But while the pink slips primarily were driven by shrinking federal aid, the move will allow the state labor department to save about $16 million annually, according to the governor’s budget office.

The layoffs will take effect on Oct. 1. Under the collective bargaining agreement that covers the affected workers, the state must provide at least six weeks of notice of layoffs.

“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,” said Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes, Malloy’s budget chief.  “We are all fully committed to helping these valuable employees find new positions in state government or elsewhere, as soon as possible.”

“We think these layoffs will be devastating, not only to the workers but also to the Connecticut citizens who rely on the vital services these workers provide,” said Larry Dorman, a spokesman for Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents many of the affected workers.

According to OPM, about 700 of the state agency’s 800 positions are funded with federal dollars that shrink as unemployment does.

Connecticut’s jobless rate stands at 5.7 percent, but was higher than 9 percent in 2010 and 2011. At least six other states, including Rhode Island, also have laid off labor agency staff because of declining federal funds, the administration reported.

Though full details were not immediately available, the layoffs mean the department will end services at certain locations.

The number of job centers will be reduced from 11 to 6.

Certain adjudications will be offered at only three locations – Bridgeport, Middletown and the central office in Wethersfield.

Field audits only will be performed only at seven locations, in Killingly, Bridgeport, Hartford, Middletown, New London, Waterbury and Wethersfield.

And agency call centers will be merged into the central office in Wethersfield.