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Social Service Workers’ Layoffs Delayed until January 5

Orange County - Notices of layoff originally scheduled to be served at the end of the year (2008) to over 200 Orange County social service workers, the biggest staff reduction in years, have been postponed until January 5, union and county officials said.

Both parties in the labor dispute argue on how and why the layoffs will be pushed in 2009. A county spokesperson depicted the delay as a mutual agreement to get around the holidays and try to match laid-off employees with other jobs.

The union said that it wanted the bad news to be delivered after the holiday season, claiming sole responsibility for the change.

Some 212 welfare fraud investigators, welfare eligibility workers, and social workers are scheduled to lose their jobs mainly because of a steep drop in the state funding. Additionally, approximately 4,000 county social services agency employees are required to take two weeks off without pay starting in February.

Union and county officials unsuccessfully tried to reduce the number of job losses in a meeting with a state mediator last Monday and suggested other cost-cutting measures.

"These layoffs are every American's nightmare," said Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees Assn. that represents 13,500 workers. "It's not that we don't understand that we in the public sector are going to be struggling with layoffs. . . . [But] the executives are raking in the money and the perks while they are laying-off lower-paid workers."

The layoffs at hand are the biggest in Orange County since its bankruptcy in 1994. In addition, the county is planning to lay off around 60 Probation Department employees early next year.

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