PLATTSBURGH - Considered to be one of New York State's best well-kept secrets, the state Department of Labor is encouraging more businesses to take part in the Shared Work Program during these difficult economic times.
The Shared Work Program helps employers survive "temporary business downturns" by reducing the number of hours worked by all employees or just a select group, instead of cutting the staff altogether.
Clifford R. Donaldson, North Country regional director for the Department of Labor, explained an increase in unemployment rates in New York State has led to the labor department making the push for employers to take part in the Shared Work Program. Donaldson spoke at length about details of the unique program, during a press conference Feb. 12 at Bombardier Transportation, a local business participating in the SWP.
"If you are an employer ... facing a temporary decline in business, Shared Work provides an alternative to lay-offs," explained Donaldson. "Rather than laying off a percentage of workers to cut costs, an employer can reduce the hours and wages of all or a particular group of employees."
The importance of keeping staff on partial unemployment instead of doing lay-offs can be beneficial to the employer in various ways, Donaldson said. It lowers the cost of having to advertise for new employees when they are needed, reduces time spent for orienting a new employee and current employees who already know the job will still be available to work when needed.
In turn, employees may also receive partial unemployment insurance to supplement their lost wages.
"New York State's unemployment rate increased from six percent in November 2008 to seven percent just one month later in December," said Donaldson. "That is the highest level of unemployment in New York State since June of 1994."
Donaldson said the increase is the largest jump in unemployment rates since the department began calculating these figures.
"Not since Franklin Roosevelt faced the dark days of the Great Depression has our country and our state seen such a drastic economic downturn," he said.
Although the Shared Work Program has been around for at least seven years, John L. Masella, regional manager for OneWorkSource, said there hasn't been such a need for the program until now.
"When things were up and running ... you don't need to take advantage of the program," he said.
Masella also explained that in order for a business to take part in the program, it is necessary to have at least five full-time employees. However, there may be some exceptions.
"In some cases, you may have four full-time employees and two part-time employees. There's ways we can work with you," said Masella. "Our job is to make sure we keep all the well-trained employees with the companies."
Masella added there are other positive aspects to the program.
"The big, big part about this program is if you're getting health benefits or vacation, that all stays in place," he said. "If you're on full lay-off, it's gone. It's a win-win situation."
For more information about the Shared Work Program, visit the state Department of Labor's Web site at www.labor.state.ny.us. If interested in applying for the program, call 457-5807.
"You can stay in business, retain your workers and hopefully weather our economic tsunami that is staying in our nation," said Donaldson."