Laid-off state employees being called back to staff unemployment compensation centers

No comments
Seventy-five laid-off state Department of Labor & Industry employees who lost their jobs a year ago will soon be recalled or rehired.  
A department spokeswoman said they will mostly be placed in the customer service-related positions in the Office of Unemployment Compensation to improve the level of service provided to Pennsylvania's unemployed workers and employers.
The timing couldn't be better. The office is in the midst of what it considers its busiest time of the year.
"We are working to bring back staff as quickly as possible, but the timeframe will depend on the amount of time needed to train and/or retrain employees in order to provide the best possible customer service to UC claimants," said department spokeswoman Penny Ickes.
The department is still in the process of rehiring staff. It also is evaluating where the returned employees will be placed, she said.
The workers being called back were among the approximate 500 who got laid off last December as a result of a legislative standoff over giving it more state funding to supplement the federal funding Pennsylvania receives to operate the UC system. 
The elimination of those jobs crippled the UC service centers. It left them with half the staff they previously had to serve all of the needs of unemployed workers and employers. This resulted in hours-long waits for the jobless to talk to a UC agent on the three days a week the centers answered calls. (On the other two days the UC staff focuses their attention on processing jobless benefit claims, which quickly became backlogged.)
Customer service improved after a short-term funding bill was enacted in April that provided $15 million to increase staffing levels in the service centers. That led to the department calling back nearly 200 of the furloughed workers.
With this latest funding bill that provides about $85 million for additional staffing for four years as well as $30 million for a technology upgrade, it will bring the UC staffing levels up to about 750 permanent salaried and temporary positions.
This is 59 shy of the 809 filled positions that existed prior to last December's furloughs, Ickes said. Currently, she said the UC service centers have 624 positions filled.
The state funding to increase the UC centers' staffing levels comes from money Pennsylvania workers pay into the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund that is used to pay jobless benefits. 
Without it, the system would be forced to operate solely on federal dollars, which department officials have argued is insufficient to provide the level of customer service to which Pennsylvanians are accustomed.
However, some lawmakers have made it clear this is it.
When this funding law expires, they expect the system to be able to operate on federal dollars alone. The technology upgrade now under way is thought to be a help.
"This new law will prevent a repeat of the type of crisis we had last year when the department laid off hundreds of employees and shut down some of its call centers right before Christmas," said House Labor & Industry Committee Chairman Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin County, who sponsored the legislation, in a Dec. 20 news release.
"I look forward to seeing the expected improvements being made by the department put into action in the very near future."

No comments :

Post a Comment

Thanks For Sharing Your Views