Employment assistance office faces layoffs

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(Host) Union leaders are criticizing the Douglas administration for its proposal to cut up to 30 jobs in the state office that helps laid off workers.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) The federal government pays for most of the job training programs at the Department of Employment and Training. A cutback in the federal appropriation has led the state to plan layoffs of up to 30 people.

The Vermont State Employees Association, the union that represents state workers, says the cuts come just as there’s growing demand for department services. IBM last week cut 500 jobs at its plant in Essex Junction. Ed Stanak is the VSEA president.

(Stanak) “This is absolutely the wrong time to lay off these trained professionals, especially when we’re facing such a large lay off at IBM. These members of our union are trained specifically to help Vermonters out who are in need because of job lay offs in other private sector jobs.”

(Dillon) Stanak says the state lay offs are a sign that fiscal policies on both the state and federal level have failed. He says the tax cuts pushed by the Bush administration have reduced revenues and raised the deficit, which means there’s less money for federal job training programs.

(Stanak) “It’s ironic isn’t it? That the governor who talked about jobs, the president who talked about jobs, now when people need the support to find new jobs, they’re yanking the rug out from under these Vermonters.”

(Dillon) Employment and Training Commissioner Anne Ginevan says the job cuts won’t happen until the end of the year, so the staff will still be on hand to help the IBM workers. According to Ginevan, the department worked hard to keep offices open in all areas of the state.

(Ginevan) “We have reorganized the career resource centers so that they will still be delivering excellent services to the community, but with reduced staff. Our choice was to do it that way, which we feel is the best choice to make, or closing some of the 12 offices. And we felt it was more important to keep our services in every community that they exist in now.”

(Dillon) Commissioner Ginevan says her department faces about a $2 million funding shortfall.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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