By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker on Friday signed into law a bill creating a program that gives employers an alternative to laying off employees when work slows.
Under the program, instead of laying off a few workers, hours for groups of employees would be reduced. Those affected could collect unemployment, paid for by the federal government. The employer would also be required to maintain retirement plans and health insurance coverage.
The program will be in effect by the end of the year. It is expected to save the state’s unemployment reserve fund nearly $5 million a year. The measure passed the Assembly on a bipartisan 74-22 vote and cleared the Republican-controlled Senate on a party line 18-15 vote.
“Instead of getting a pink slip during an economic downturn, workers now have an opportunity to stay on the job and receive unemployment benefits for the hours they lose,” Walker said in a statement.
Senate Democrats objected after Republicans rejected an amendment, supported by unions and business groups on a state advisory council, to add a protection in the work-share program for labor agreements.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ed Brooks, R-Reedsburg, and Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee.