An email about tight resources from the state Canal Corp.’s director is being highlighted by members of the Civil Service Employees Association as evidence that this week’s layoffs mean scaled-back services.
The state Thruway Authority eliminated 231 positions on Wednesday, with about 42 of the spots in the Canal Corp., a division of the authority. A total of 217 employees were laid off as the result of the job eliminations.
Plans to cut the jobs were announced earlier in the year and were the product of fiscal challenges in the Thruway Authority, according to authority spokesman Dan Weiller.
The email from state Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton to employees is available on the Capital Region Scene at www.dailygazette.com.
“Positions throughout the system were identified for elimination after a careful review of staffing and operational needs in every area of the state, and we will ensure that we maintain the same level of safety and reliability our customers have come to expect,” Weiller said. “We regret the loss of valued employees and express our thanks for their years of dedicated service.”
Weiller did not say where the cuts would be, but has previously noted that jobs across the state and in 60 different civil service titles are included in the cuts.
Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton wrote in an email to his employees on Thursday, which was given to The Daily Gazette by CSEA, that they’re heading into possibly the most “challenging chapter” of the history of the canal system because of the cuts.
Stratton has previously said that the cuts were designed to limit the impact on services provided. In his email he said the Canal Corp. will have to switch to a reduced operating schedule that was last employed in 1991.
“Even with this revised schedule, our resources will be strained, and our people challenged, like never before,” Stratton wrote.
“I am aware of the state of morale, and the precarious state of our labor force currently,” he added, asking his employees to “do more with less.”
In response to this email, CSEA President Danny Donohue said Stratton had done a drastic reversal on his previous position regarding the impact of the cuts.
He noted that the layoffs mean the Oswego Canal will not have any lock operators.
“Unmanned locks are more than just an inconvenience to boaters or a hit to the wallets of communities along the Mohawk Valley that depend on the canals economically,” Donohue said in a news statement. “This could potentially cause a serious safety hazard, particularly at a time when major storms and flooding continue to pose a real threat.”
It is not clear where the other cuts will be, as a CSEA spokesman said the Thruway Authority hadn’t provided them with a final list yet.
There had been negotiations going into this week with the unions and the state to find savings that could potentially prevent layoffs.
The Thruway Authority was the center of controversy in 2012 when there was the possibility of a toll hike on certain commercial vehicles, but that plan was averted.