By Ken Dixon, Connecticut Post
Updated 4:26 pm, Wednesday, August 5, 2015
HARTFORD — The state’s decrease in the unemployment rate will result in nearly 100 job losses in the state Department of Labor because of a cutback in federal funding.
Labor officials, the Office of Labor Relations and the Office of Policy and Management have notified 95 employees that their jobs will be eliminated in six weeks, at an estimated savings of over $16 million. The loss in federal funding is the result of a decrease in Connecticut’s unemployment rate, which has fallen from 9 percent in 2010 to 5.7 percent this month.
The department has about 800 workers, 700 of whom are paid with federal funding. The termination plans include reducing the current 11 American Job Centers down to six, including Bridgeport, Danielson, Hamden, Hartford, New London and Waterbury. Field offices will also be consolidated. Unionized department employees with longer periods of service will have “bumping” rights over workers with less time in either the Department of Labor or other state agencies.
“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 Ben Barnes, OPM secretary, in a statement Wednesday. “We are all fully committed to helping these valuable employees find new positions in state government or elsewhere, as soon as possible.”
Xavier Gordon, president of the 470-member AFSCME Local 269, who works at the Bridgeport jobs center, said Wednesday that the average wait for two hours for assistance on an initial unemployment claim is bound to increase under the layoffs.
He said 60 members of his local will lose their jobs.
“We are the front-line people,” Gordon said in a phone interview. “It’s a sad day as far as my members are concerned. It’s a real major step back for those communities losing the job centers.”