Thursday, March 5, 2009

States shave workforce to save money

State employees, once thought to have one of the most secure jobs with the best benefits, are increasingly worried as the recession deepens and states look to trim their salaries to balance their budgets.

Last month, California sent “surplus notices” — or layoff warnings — to 20,000 state employees. Vermont’s state employees union has offered to give up raises and take four unpaid work days, which the state says won’t save enough money. Oregon’s governor told public employees they’d have to take off 26 unpaid days over the next two years; in December, he said the number was eight.

According to The Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which tracks the issue through news accounts, at least 17 states have already laid off 15,433 public employees in the last 11 months, the bulk of that from when California dealt with a budget gap by letting go 10,000 part-time and temporary employees in July.

Dwarfing the layoff figures is the number of people being furloughed; so far at least 16 states have forced employees to take time off without pay, saying that option could stave off layoffs. Just among Arizona, California, Georgia and Maryland, well over 355,000 people have already taken unpaid leave, while Pennsylvania could soon add another 78,000 and New Jersey another 80,000 to that tally.

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