Losses In City Less Than Feared, But More Might Occur In 2007 As Merger Moves Ahead
July 11, 2006
By DIANE LEVICK, Courant Staff Writer
Lincoln National Corp. told Hartford employees Monday it will cut 75 jobs here this year, countering earlier rumors about hundreds of imminent layoffs, but the company isn't predicting what action it might take in 2007.
The 75 jobs, which will go to Greensboro, N.C., and Concord, N.H., during the next five months, represent slightly less than 10 percent of the 775 people Lincoln employs in Hartford.
However, Lincoln spokesman Tom Johnson noted that all 75 affected workers may not be laid off because the company hopes to move some into open positions. The 75 people work in operations that service life insurance policies and handle claims.
Lincoln previously said it had "about 800" employees in downtown Hartford, but confirmed at the end of March that about a dozen local employees, including some senior managers, were told their positions would be eliminated.
The integration of Philadelphia-based Lincoln and Greensboro-based Jefferson-Pilot Corp., which merged April 3, will continue through 2007, and the company is not forecasting numbers of additional job cuts.
"Are there going to be more Hartford job cuts? It's possible. Are they going to be as extensive? Probably not," Johnson said. He said there could also be an "uptick" in Hartford jobs, depending on Lincoln's business and integration decisions.
"Hartford continues to be a very critical base of operations for Lincoln today and going forward" because of the functions handled here and the quality of the work, Johnson said.
Because of the merger, though, Hartford is no longer considered the headquarters for Lincoln's life insurance operations. Greensboro is.
In addition to life insurance service and claims, Lincoln's Hartford operations also include some employees in Individual Markets and Employer Markets units, and in Lincoln Financial Distributors and Lincoln Financial Advisors.
Lincoln will continue its commitment to Hartford, giving $2.3 million in charitable donations to the area this year, the same level as last year, said Heidi St. Jean, the company's director of public relations for Hartford.
Public officials reacted to the news about job cuts with a mix of relief and concern.
Even one layoff is bad news, but it could have been worse at Lincoln, said Barbara Fernandez, director of the state's new Insurance and Financial Services Business Development Office. "I was bracing myself for a lot more than 75," she said. "Seventy-five is difficult, but it's certainly better than what the rumors were."
Gov. M. Jodi Rell is "deeply disappointed" with the job cuts, although they could have been higher, Rell spokesman Judd Everhart said. Despite the cuts, "The insurance and financial services industry is a vibrant part of Connecticut's economy," he added.
Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez said 75 is not a big number in light of Lincoln's size in Hartford, but said his goal is to protect existing jobs and "grow every corporate presence."
"Lincoln has been a very good corporate citizen since they got here," Perez said. Once the post-merger situation stabilizes and the company realizes the opportunities and talents here, "my hope is the [workforce] numbers will start going in the opposite direction," he said.
Lincoln employees were bused over to The Bushnell's Maxwell M. and Ruth R. Belding Theater in Hartford on Monday morning to be briefed about the job cuts and merger progress. Lincoln is sponsoring The Bushnell's Broadway Series for a second year.
After hearing from the heads of several business units, Lincoln employees streamed out of the theater after the meeting with little expression on their faces, boarding buses and declining to talk.
Employees affected by the job cuts will get severance and outplacement assistance, Johnson said.
Also, the affected employees will have access by the end of this month to a special website where they can list their skills and be notified about open jobs at other insurance company offices in the area. The aim is to expedite the matching of Lincoln people with job vacancies, said Fernandez, who got state agencies and insurers to cooperate on the project.
The insurers include The Hartford, Aetna, St. Paul Travelers, and The Phoenix Cos., according to Rell's office.
The special website is hosted by the state Department of Labor, but is not open to the public. The state Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of Workforce Competitiveness, and Capital Community College were also involved in its creation, Fernandez said.
While Lincoln was laying plans for Hartford, the company told Fort Wayne, Ind., last month that it will add 130 jobs to operations there over six to nine months. None of those jobs are expected to come from Hartford, and about 60 of the 130 will come from Portland, Maine - an office that will eventually close.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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