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"Ferry management, support staff axed"

"Pink slips were delivered Monday to 92 managers and support staff personnel employed by Washington State Ferries.The layoffs were the result of cutbacks forced by voter approval of Initiative 695, the $30 license tab initiative. The initiative eliminated the motor vehicle excise tax which partially funded the ferry system budget.Ferry officials will be on Whidbey Island Monday, Dec. 6 to explain service and personnel cuts. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland. Hosts of the meeting are the Clinton and Keystone ferry advisory committees.“This is a difficult time for the employees and customers of Washington State Ferries,” said Paul Green, CEO of the ferry system, in a news release. “The message we are getting, however, is a demand to institute operating efficiencies while protecting vital services.”State Ferries has 1,986 staff positions, of which 314 are described as management and support staff positions. The 92 employees axed Monday were told the news in one-on-one meetings before the announcement was made public.Green said the cuts represent a 29 percent reduction from management and support staff levels authorized by the legislature following a 1998 performance audit of the ferry system. According to Green, 60 of the 92 positions eliminated are associated with Referendum 49 construction projects, which include passenger-only ferry facilities and improvements at Colman Dock in Seattle. Those jobs will be eliminated immediately. Ref. 49 was approved by voters in 1998, but I-695 effectively overruled it.The remaining 32 positions were cut from what Green described as “further reductions in the capital and operating programs.” Details were not immediately available. Those positions will be eliminated in the first quarter of 2000.The layoffs came on the heels of proposed service cuts announced earlier. On Whidbey Island, the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry run will lose some weekend summer service; and the Keystone-Port Townsend route will lose one of its two ferries in the fall and spring. Plans are to totally eliminate passenger-only ferry service if the legislature concurs with the plan."

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