Unwanted long weekend for 24,000 state workers

FURLOUGHS: Many state offices to close Monday

October 9, 2010 


The Washington State Capitol in Olympia. (Tony Overman/The Olympian)

More than 24,000 state government workers are taking another day off without pay Monday. The temporary layoffs will shut down main offices for more than 50 agencies, boards and commissions - including the Department of Transportation.

It is the fourth round of one-day temporary layoffs since July and the first for Transportation. Majority Democrats ordered 10 one-day layoffs through June 2011 to save about $73 million from various state funds, with exceptions for front-line public safety employees.

Some agencies are staying open and using permanent layoffs or early retirements to meet their share of the cuts. But visitors to the Capitol will find that tour guides are not available, and many state agency doors will be locked.

The layoffs have run smoothly, but confusion arose Friday over who must report for work next week at the Department of Social and Health Services, which has nearly 18,000 workers.

About 40 percent of the DSHS staff is subject to the Legislature’s order for layoffs. But DSHS recently announced it is expanding furloughs for the remaining 60 percent of its staff to help meet the savings goals required by Gov. Chris Gregoire’s across-the-board cuts of 6.3 percent.

The confusion came after the Washington Federation of State Employees and the state Labor Relations Office hit a roadblock in negotiations over how the extra layoffs would play out.

DSHS spokesman Thomas Shapley said the agency notified all its workers by e-mail Friday on behalf of Glen Christopherson, senior human resources director, saying the extra furloughs won’t start Monday:

“You should report to work Monday unless you have previously received a temporary layoff notice in writing. If you have questions, contact your supervisor.”

The temporary layoffs have been saving about $5 million each month, according to the Office of Financial Management. About 23,039 general-government workers lost a day’s pay in July, and 20,613 – or 31 percent of the work force – were off in September.

More than half of managers took temporary layoff days in July and August, OFM spokesman Glenn Kuper said. Figures for September were not yet calculated.

A fifth round of furloughs is planned Dec. 28 – with five more one-day layoffs to take place starting Jan 28.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 bshannon@theolympian.com

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