With the announcement from The Department of Human Services of possible furloughs for its workforce that will amount to an 8.8 percent cut for employees across the state, OPEA’s DHS members are jumping into action.
“It is impossible for any state employee, much less a DHS employee, to take a massive cut in pay,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “With salaries that are well below market and no pay raise since 2006, state employees are already struggling to put food on the table and support their families.”
The proposal is being considered to fill the budget hole for the fiscal year beginning in July. DHS offices would close one day a week and employees would work nine-hour days the remaining four days. The furlough will be suspended for six weeks, to comply with the furlough limit of 184 hours. Employees in 24-hour facilities will be excluded from the furlough depending on their position (i.e. job duties).
OPEA has learned DHS has been asked by legislators to look at 10 percent cuts to the agency’s appropriations for FY 2011. Cuts of this magnitude to the state’s largest agency could spell disaster for accuracy rates, delivery of services and cripple reforms to the child welfare, not to mention the impact on workers and their families.
“Legislators are just beginning to write the state budget,” said Zearley. “The furloughs can be curtailed or stopped if DHS is properly funded. OPEA is fighting furloughs and RIF’s in many state agencies and this is another blow to state employees. The involvement of members in DHS offices is critical to the association’s effort. Employees must engage with OPEA on this issue because the budget issue is not going away. State employees who are not members cannot hide their heads in the sand anymore.”
OPEA is calling for DHS employees to meet with local legislators in their offices immediately. “Our members must engage their local legislators,” said Zearley. “Not a moment can go by if we expect to avert a disaster in DHS.”
“People who are searching for work need the support of DHS for childcare, food stamps, and Medicaid to carry them through the tough times,” said Zearley. “DHS services lower stress on families and contribute to the local community.”
OPEA DHS members are encouraged to set up meetings with local legislators in their offices or at other locations in the community. OPEA membership representatives are available to help in the coordination. TO HELP, CALL 1800 880 6732