Belleayre's lost jobs partially determined by chance

Rick Karlin, a Capitol Bureau correspondent for the Albany Times Union writes this morning that at least three Belleayre employees might be laid off solely because the last four digits of their social security numbers are too low:

[C]an simply having the wrong Social Security number cost you your job?

The answer is yes, if you work at the state-owned Belleayre ski center in the Catskills, where the question of seniority and bumping rights among a handful of people will be resolved by who has the highest Social Security numbers.

"The bumping has already taken place," said Pat McVitty, a Civil Service Employees Association union steward at Belleayre, explaining that at least three people are getting "bumped" from year-round to seasonal jobs based on their Social Security numbers. Some may be laid off altogether.

It sounds like a joke, but apparently the cost-cutters eyeing Belleayre are using social security numbers to pick and choose the doomed from a pool of 58 workers who have exactly the same seniority. Ironically, they all have the same seniority they were all promoted to permanent employment positions three years ago, which should have been a good thing.

Using a method based on chance to chose among union employees who all have equal seniority is actually a time-honored tradition, Karlin writes:

Other state agencies have used other random methods to break seniority ties.

Michael Geraghty, a CSEA local president at the Office of Children and Family Services' Tryon youth center in Johnstown, said they have considered using one's initials to determine seniority in a tie.

The point of using such random means is that the layoffs not be arbitrary or capricious, which would allow employees to level charges of favoritism.

We can tell you one thing: nobody within 50 miles of Highmount thinks that Belleayre is a favorite of the DEC. As we reported earlier this week, the chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, Joe Kelly, is convinced that the state in unfairly targeting the ski resort when it comes to layoffs.