Worker union says 400 people may be laid off - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Worker union says 400 people may be laid off

Anonymous employee Anonymous employee
Nora Nomura Nora Nomura
Kaui Faumuina Kaui Faumuina

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's largest government worker union says up to 400 people could be on the chopping block and 60 offices may shut down.

The concern is over the offices that process applications for key social services, including food stamps and MedQuest.

The Department of Human Services is considering consolidating dozens of those spots into two processing centers in Honolulu and Hilo.

Many state workers are on edge as more and more begin to learn about this proposal.

After getting hit the hardest in the first round of state layoffs, DHS is proposing more layoffs. 400 jobs and 60 offices may be cut and a worker is worried, he may be next in line.

We concealed his identity because he fears backlash from the State.

"I would be out of a job and wouldn't be able to support my family and of course our clients would suffer because less employees would mean less service to them," he said.

Lawmakers met with HGEA representatives on Monday to talk about this issue.      

"What this will mean is that people cannot access services except by e-mail, fax, or phone, and many of the clientele, our members tell us, are not able to do that because they're either the elderly, the disabled, people who speak English as a second language," HGEA deputy director Nora Nomura said.

DHS clients are hoping the cuts stay as just a proposal.

"When I was homeless I got robbed and I didn't know how to call to cancel my card and thank god the next day I could walk in to the office and it was there in Waianae that I could cancel everything and get everything new," DHS client Kaui Faumuina said.

In a statement, DHS director Lillian Koller says like all state offices they are always looking to cut costs but consultations have barely begun and no decisions have been made.

Koller adds it's unfortunate the union spoke about it prematurely before the department has even met with them to talk about all of the options.

"It's going to limit my ability to serve my clients effectively, it's going to eliminate the customer service aspect of my job and it's going to make it harder for our clients to reach us," a DHS worker said.

DHS says similar models have worked in other states, including Oregon.

The HGEA and DHS are both hoping to schedule a meeting to further discuss this proposal.

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