SEIU protests layoffs

WW photo: Joseph Piette

Unemployment Compensation Center workers joined Service Employees union activists outside their call center during their lunch hour on Aug. 8 to protest the state’s closing of their workplace — despite Philadelphia’s official 10.1 percent unemployment rate.

State officials claim the layoffs were due to fewer jobless claims. However, union organizer Ray Martinez said the workers were told that they are losing their jobs because the lease was up on the center’s office space at 2901 Grant Avenue, and that it was too expensive to renew. Martinez said: “The unemployed already find it hard to get a live body on the phone to answer questions. It’s now going to get even worse.”

The state runs nine unemployment compensation service centers; Philadelphia’s is the only one that will close. A press release cited Labor and Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway, who said: “Claimants are encouraged to use the Internet to file UC claims and to get information they need. We are promoting our ‘Online is Easy’ campaign to let claimants know that filing online is fast, simple, secure and available any time.” (EIN News, July 16)

The telephone-based customer service office, which is now staffed by 75 department employees, will close on Aug. 15. Special rules stipulate that when they file for unemployment benefits, they must do so through UC supervisors.

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