Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tribes In The Media: Mashantucket Pequot Tribe Layoffs

The Tribes In The Media series re-publishes a second article in today's The Day newspaper of New London regarding the financial and political difficulties facing the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe:

End is near for scores of tribe workers
Mashantuckets reducing government force by 20% through buyouts, layoffs

By Kira Goldenberg
The Day newspaper
May 24, 2008

Mashantucket - For about 170 employees of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, May 30 is the end.

About 10 percent of those 170 employees were laid off and the rest opted for a buyout package as the tribal government pares down its workings.

The departures trim the work force by about 20 percent.

”It's very difficult,” tribal General Counsel Jackson T. King Jr. said Friday. “This is a tough process for everybody. Some of our friends have chosen to leave, and for tribal members, it's their relatives. It's difficult, but sometimes you've got to bite the bullet.”

The departures were announced Friday. About half the people who requested buyouts were turned down, King said, leaving some employees unsure of their status until later in the day.

The buyout option, called a “voluntary severance package,” was first announced in late March. The package includes six months of compensation and benefits and one week's salary per year worked up to 10 years. The employees who were laid off get a lesser severance package, spokespeople said. Employees who are also tribal members have their own buyout deal.

Employees desiring buyouts who worked in what the tribe deemed necessary positions were denied the offer. This included departments such as emergency services, gaming commission employees, and the legal department. Other departments were consolidated or eliminated, according to a statement released by the tribe.

Still other government functions were shifted, King said. Outdoor landscaping, which mostly benefits Foxwoods Resort Casino, owned and operated by the tribe, was shifted from the government's public works department to Foxwoods, King said.

Some tribal members disagree with how the tribal council dealt with tightening the budget. At least a third of the tribe's 800 to 900 members filed a petition in March asking that members have input in how the tribe trimmed $40 million from the government budget. Tribal council meetings are closed to all but the governing members.

After a preliminary hearing on the issue May 22, a continuation was granted until Thursday to give members more time to present their case. But the judge did not agree to an injunction on the tribal council to prevent cutting its work force Friday.