When the economy went south several years ago, Hager Companies in St. Louis saw their sales decline. The business had to cut costs everywhere. It seemed that layoffs were imminent.
As the possible job cuts loomed, the company—which produces high-quality door hardware such as locks, hinges and weather stripping—discovered a better option, the Shared-Work Program.
Shared-Work allows companies to reduce the hours of their permanent employees during temporary periods of slow business. To help make up for lost wages, the employees collect partial unemployment payments. It’s a federal program administered by locally by the Missouri Department of Labor. Missouri joined the program in 1987.
The program was a huge help to Hager Companies.
“We were able to reduce expenses and retain valuable employees. Then, when business improved, we returned them to full time hours,” said Sherry L. Fagin, Hager’s vice president of human resources. “The Shared Work Program gave us a better option than laying employees off and lessened the negative impact of reduced hours and pay for employees. It provides a win-win solution and is an important program for Missouri employers.”
But today, the program is in danger. With little time remaining in the legislative session, lawmakers must pass a bill to continue the program in Missouri. Significant legislative hurdles remain.
“We know that this is a very valuable program to employers across Missouri. In fact, we’ve heard that this program has actually helped convince businesses to move jobs to Missouri,” said Tracy King, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs. “We have been working with our legislators to make them aware of how impactful Shared-Work is in our state. Retaining this program will be a major focus for us during the session’s final week.”
Bills in both the House and Senate would address this issue. But with little time remaining, neither has made it to the finish line. Senate Bill 844 is sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon, a Republican from Springfield, and House Bill 1713 is sponsored by Rep. Jeanie Lauer, a Republican from Blue Springs.
Rep. Lauer said that currently 300-400 Missouri employers are part of the Shared-Work program representing 30,000-40,000 employees. She said her bill would allow Missouri employers to continue to take advantage of the program after the federal mandate ends on Aug. 22.
“We want to make sure they have this tool in their toolkit,” she said. “We have legislation that will keep us in compliance with the federal government on this program. Without this legislation, the program will go away.”
Across the state, businesses have joined the call to save Shared-Work.
In Kansas City, Posty Cards president Erick Jessee said without the Shared-Work Program, his company would be forced to reduce its full-time work force and instead rely more on temporary employees.
“A temporary workforce receives lower pay and no benefits which, on the surface, is less expensive for us, but in the longer view costs more money in training and carries a higher risk of lower customer satisfaction due to the lower skill level that a temp force provides,” he said.
In Jackson, RHC Holding Corp. Human Resources Manager Drenna Shive said employers benefit from the program by retaining their core workforce. Employees benefit, too, by keeping their jobs while utilizing partial unemployment benefits.
“I’ve been using this program for nearly 10 years,” Shive said. “I can say, firsthand, that this program saved our company from layoffs many times over.”
Michael Nix, vice president of operations at St. Louis-based ASPEQ Holdings, said Missouri’s participation in the Shared-Work Program was a factor in his company’s recent decision to consolidate workforces and relocate jobs into Missouri.
“I can attest to the fact that the Shared Work Program gives Missouri a distinct advantage over other states,” Nix said. The program is good for Missouri, Missouri businesses and, most importantly, workers in Missouri.”
In Boonville, Charlie Melkersman of Nordyne had similar comments. He said Shared-Work has been a successful program for both Nordyne and its employees.
“As a Human Resource Manager who has worked with this program for many years and sees its benefit to all of our employees, I cannot even grasp why our lawmakers would not sign a bill to continue this program,” he said. “It is truly a win-win situation for all.”
For more information on the Shared-Work Program, contact Tracy King, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 573-634-3511.