The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has announced, thru the County Manager, that there will be 28 employees laid off shortly. Many of those employees who will be effected by the job cuts converged on the freeholder meeting last evening and it has been reported that they were joined by about 35 or so fellow workers, all members of union Council 8. Council 8 represents approximately 875 county workers the largest bargaining unit and includes practical nurses, mechanics, secretaries and inspectors. County Manager Devanney sites a $24million county shortfall and a crippled US economy as the reasons for the layoffs which would be effective in early April.
There are many out there who would say that there isn’t an industry that is safe these days however these layoffs are particularly distasteful as the freeholders frequently use the county employees’ job security as an election issue. Beating up on their GOP opponents the incumbent freeholders have repeatedly, year after year, accused the Republicans of being heartless beasts who would, for sure, be responsible for a merciless bloodbath should they be elected to sit on the board and have anything to do with managing the county budget. The Democrats of Union County have claimed that they have been able to maintain the jobs of county employees and have bragged repeatedly that they would not be the ones to do the cutting as every employee they have hired is absolutely necessary. And that it seems would include those high ticket friends and relatives who mysteriously show up on the county payroll unannounced. It is doubtful that the rank and file types who are getting cut this go round are the ones on the county payroll that those “pesky” Republicans would be cutting if they in fact were sitting on the board.
The layoff announcement this week has brought out the usual political hack or two who are attempting some early behind the scenes damage control by trying to shift the blame for the layoffs away from the freeholders and onto others where ever it will stick even onto some political activists. Claiming that the County Watchers could be even partly responsible for the coming carnage because they have spoken out frequently about county hiring practices and are finally being listened to is just too outrageous for words. Let’s be serious here folks no one will buy that one for even a minute so give it up.
Numerous freeholder candidates and some private citizens have over the past few years issued warnings to the board that they were leading us into troubled territory. Pointing out to the board that they have relied much too heavily on dwindling surplus money as well as federal and state grants to mask out of control spending and poor business practices the freeholders have finally spent themselves into a corner. Devanny has said that they have reached a point where there is no option left but to reduce the payroll, which would not have been the case if only they had listened sooner. There should have been a hiring freeze honored on all positions to include a new hire in January at a salary of $91,000+ for a confidential assistant, the county manager did not need a new truck this year why not an economy car with front wheel drive to handle the snow, and what about using our in-house attorneys instead of paying almost a half million in additional legal fees to a political supporter and how about that concert down payment that the board made for Music Fest 2009 what was up with that? And how can we forget the out of pocket expenses to settle law suits brought by employees that have cost the taxpayers millions? So much money wasted that can never be recovered again, it is mind boggling..
Cutting the jobs of 28 persons is certainly not the answer to make up for a $24 Mil shortfall, the employees know better perhaps than anyone else what can go and what needs to stay and according to one quoted in the Star Ledger there is “a lot of fat there before they get to the meat. There are a lot of other ways they can cut without cutting jobs.”