In early August when the Department of Labor announced it was laying off 95 employees, it also said it would close six job centers to correspond with those layoffs.
The layoffs are still moving forward, but according to the Office of Policy and Management, the job centers in Enfield, Meriden, New Britain, Norwich, Torrington, and Willimantic will remain open. However, they will be managed, starting on Oct. 16, by the Workforce Investment Board.
The job centers are locations where unemployed or underemployed individuals can go search for a job or get help with a resume.
Critics of the initial decision to close the job centers argued that the centers targeted for closure were in high unemployment areas and the people being served by those centers don’t have the ability to travel to a different location to find employment.
There are currently 12 full-service American Job Centers and six affiliated American Job Centers in Connecticut. The full-service centers are currently staffed by a combination of Labor Department and Workforce Investment Board employees. Six of the current full-service centers will become affiliate centers by Oct. 16 and will be managed by the Workforce Investment Board without the help of Labor Department employees.
The six centers that will now be run by the Workforce Investment Board will be located in Enfield, Meriden, New Britain, Norwich, Torrington, and Willimantic. Five Labor Department workers will be stationed in the five largest and busiest job centers in Bridgeport, Hartford, Hamden, New London, and Waterbury effective Nov 1, 2015.
“This restructuring, without closures, will continue many important services for residents,” the Office of Policy and Management said Friday in a statement. “Unemployment is at a seven-year low, and Connecticut just had its best August for job growth in a decade. And because unemployment has declined over time, the federal formula necessitates fewer federal dollars both in Connecticut and across the nation. As a result, this is a thought-out plan to maintain as many services as possible.”
Larry Dorman, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 4 — the union which represents a majority of the 95 employees — said Friday that they appreciate the effort of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration to find the employees who received layoff notices jobs in other state agencies.
“However, that effort leaves 95 fewer people to serve recently unemployed residents,” Dorman said. “You can’t take 95 workers out of the system without putting some pressure on that system.”
Dorman declined comment on the restructuring of the job centers.
The union also has complained about the administration’s decision to consolidate its call centers from two to one. According to the Office of Policy and Management, the Hamden Call Center is still to be consolidated with the one in Middletown.
AFSCME Council 4 protested the consolidation of the call centers almost two weeks ago outside the Hamden office.
In addition to that consolidation, the adjudications division will be consolidated from seven to three locations, the appeals division will be consolidated from three to two locations, and the field audit staff will be consolidated from 12 locations down to five, according to the administration.
Malloy administration officials have said the reduction in staff is necessary because federal funding for the department is expected to decrease by $32 million over the next two years. The layoffs will result in recurring savings of more than $12 million.
Union leaders have another rally planned for Sept. 26 at the Department of Labor’s headquarters in Wethersfield.