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MetLife's Lips Tight On Layoffs In City

November 15, 2005
By DIANE LEVICK, Courant Staff Writer

MetLife is living up to its much debated employment promise after buying Travelers Life & Annuity in Hartford, but isn't saying how many employees will ultimately lose their jobs.

MetLife and Travelers' former parent, Citigroup, have already notified the state Department of Labor of 288 layoffs in the city, many of them already done and some slated around the ends of November and December. More layoffs are expected.

New York-based MetLife promised, after negotiations with Gov. M. Jodi Rell's office, to have at least 1,310 jobs in Hartford for a year after the July 1 closing of the Travelers deal. That was to be a mix of existing Travelers employees and whoever would fill some jobs MetLife planned to bring in from out-of-state locations.

The commitment meant a potential cut the first year of 490 jobs from the 1,800 that Travelers had in Hartford in the spring.

The Hartford employment, though, had already dropped to 1,723 as of May 31 - mostly because of attrition, MetLife had said.

As of September, there were 1,577 people at MetLife in Hartford - 267 more than required to meet the company's commitment.

"I'm not sure this is anything to celebrate about," Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez said Monday.

He said he was "severely disappointed" that state officials "rolled over" and accepted such a limited and short-term commitment on jobs.

MetLife refused last week to answer more than 15 questions about jobs in Hartford, including how many Travelers employees it has laid off so far, or how many more it expects to terminate, and when. The company also wouldn't say how many of the 1,577 employees as of September were former Travelers workers and how many, if any, were new hires to fill imported jobs.

"We are not interested in revisiting this whole issue again," MetLife spokesman John Calagna said.

"We're committed to Hartford," he said. "We've made a commitment, and we're living up to our commitment, and in fact we're above our commitment."

The 288-layoff number comes from company notices filed periodically with the state under the federal "WARN" act. The notices show a variety of jobs cut, from Chief Executive George Kokulis, who left when the deal was done, to portfolio managers, lawyers, administrative assistants and programmers.

Because many former Travelers employees were given temporary jobs, more layoffs are inevitable.

A MetLife federal filing last week said the company has "initiated plans to reduce approximately 1,000 domestic and international Travelers employees, which is expected to be completed by December 2006."

Calagna said that tracks with what MetLife already said because about half of the reduction is in the Citigroup international insurance operations. The other half would come from Travelers, mostly in Hartford.

Travelers had about 2,100 employees companywide in the spring.

The WARN notices show 111 employees in Hartford due to be eliminated by the end of this year or shortly afterward.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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