Compromised reached on DET layoffs

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(Host) The Douglas administration and legislative leaders have reached an agreement about possible job cuts at the Department of Employment and Training. The proposal will save nine of the 29 positions that were scheduled to be eliminated.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) When the administration announced the layoffs last month, a number of Senate Democratic leaders strongly criticized the plan. The department receives virtually all of its funds from the federal government and recent budget cuts by the Bush administration have left the department with a million dollar shortfall as the new federal fiscal year begins.

The administration proposed eliminating 29 job counselor positions to deal with the situation. Senate Democratic leaders argued that the cuts were counter productive because they come at a time when IBM has just announced the loss of 500 jobs.

Under the compromise, nine of the 29 positions will be retained because the administration was able to secure additional federal funds through a social welfare program. Governor Jim Douglas says the compromise is a good way to deal with a difficult situation:

(Douglas) “I don’t want to suggest that there’ll be literally no impact, but I think with minor inconveniences of scheduling appointments we’ll be able to substantially continue the level of service we have now. A lot of people who’ve been concerned about this change have pointed to the recent layoffs at IBM but it’s important to remember that IBM has retained an out-placement firm and that’s the organization that will provide services initially to the displaced workers there.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he’s hopeful that other positions in state government can be found for the 20 people who are losing their jobs:

(Douglas) “Our personnel department is working very hard to find alternative positions for those employees. We have a number of vacancies in other positions, other agencies in state government and we’re going to see if we can fit those employees into other positions. It may not happen in every case but I think we can work towards filling many of them with these displaced workers.”

(Kinzel) The Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee is expected to give its approval to this plan at its meeting next week.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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