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The state Department of Workforce Services plans to end a longtime contract with the Arkansas AFL-CIO to provide assistance to dislocated workers and will provide the services itself as a cost-saving measure, a department official said this week.

The department's savings will be roughly $100,000 a year in ending the contract that has existed since about 1986, said Steve Guntharp, an assistant director at the department.

Arkansas AFL-CIO President Alan Hughes said Wednesday, "We served the people really well, and I hope they put as much effort in as we did."

He said he laid off three employees in November who provided services under the state contract and will lay off one more at the end of January.

"I just hate the way it came down because the AFL-CIO is doing it," Hughes said. The Arkansas AFL-CIO represents unions with about 32,000 members, Hughes said.

State Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, has opposed the Arkansas AFL-CIO having the contract, which is for services for laid-off workers.

In October, Ballinger said AFL-CIO officials outside of Arkanss "have used thuggery tactics in other places" and "got a very bad negative reputation." He also said the Arkansas AFL-CIO was an unnecessary component to the services provided to dislocated workers and said it has "a very small administrative responsibility."

Ballinger could not be reached for comment by telephone on Wednesday.

In October, the Legislative Council signed off on the department's proposed $38,474.25 contract with the Arkansas AFl-CIO ending Jan. 31.

The council's Review Subcommittee in September delayed action on the department's original proposal to extend its contract with the Arkansas AFL-CIO through June 30 for $153,897, after Ballinger said the department should end its contract with the labor federation.

In October, Jay Bassett, the department's division chief for governor's dislocated-worker task force, told lawmakers that the department's shorter contract with the Arkansas AFL-CIO would allow department officials to decide in December "whether to absorb these functions entirely within the Department of Workforce Services or offer them as a contracted service with an outside provider."

Hughes "has indicated his position is to NOT participate in the bid process, even if the agency chooses to continue an arrangement with an outside party," Bassett wrote in an email dated Nov. 29 to three other department officials.

Hughes said Wednesday that it would have been a waste of time to bid on a contract that lawmakers told him the Arkansas AFL-CIO wouldn't receive.

Bassett said in an email dated Dec. 16 to two other department officials that he informed Bureau of Legislative Research fiscal analyst Kathy Schmidt that the department "has decided to bring those services 'in-house' and will not be initiating the bid solicitation process."

Review Subcommittee co-Chairman Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, said Wednesday that the Arkansas AFL-CIO "had no basis for what they were doing except helping dislocated workers."

"I would say we are not going to spend the money we were spending," he said.

The subcommittee's other co-chairman, Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, D-Hermitage, said he supports the plan for the state to begin providing services because the department expects significant savings.

Business on 12/24/2015

Print Headline: AFL-CIO out; state now to aid jobless

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