WSDOT will be open for business on July 12 – a furlough day for others

by guest blogger Ann Briggs

We’ve all been hearing a lot about temporary layoffs (also called furloughs) for state government agencies and you might be wondering how the closure of state offices will affect you. 

It’s all a bit confusing, since not all agencies will have temporary layoffs on all of the 10 days that were selected by the legislature – the first one falls on Monday, July 12. The new temporary layoff law (ESSB 6503 for those of you want to dig into the nitty gritty of the bill language) allowed state agencies to come up with an alternate plan to achieve the compensation savings in other ways. Adding to the confusion, some agencies were exempted and portions of some agencies’ operations were exempted.

So where does that leave us?  We opted to propose an alternate plan that was then approved by the Office of Financial Management (OFM). We also have staff who will be exempted from temporary layoffs in order to deliver critical public services. For us this includes “the operation, maintenance and construction of state ferries and state highways.” Under this plan, we will achieve our $1.4 million compensation savings target by taking two layoff days. They are October 11, 2010 and March 11, 2011.

We chose these days (two of the 10 selected days listed in the law) because they fall during a slower period of activity. In October, our heavy construction season will be coming to an end and winter maintenance activities are just beginning to gear up.  In March, we’ll be over the worst of our winter weather and most highway construction will not have yet started.

To make the temporary layoffs equitable for our staff and meet our reduction target, we took a narrow approach to how we applied exemptions. We are exempting only those employees who are engaged in “on the road” maintenance activities; “on the water” and “on the terminal” delivery of ferry service; and “on the grade” construction activities.  That means more of our employee population will be subject to temporary layoffs and we can reach our $1.4 million target with fewer closure days.

For you, that means although many of our buildings and offices will be closed on October 11, 2010 and March 11, 2011, the ferries will continue running, we’ll keep construction projects on track, and our maintenance workers will be ready to respond to weather and roadway incidents.
As for this Monday, July 12 – it’s business as usual.