Port agency to cut 72 jobs in reorganization

September 06, 1991|By John H. Gormley Jr.

Adrian G. Teel, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, announced yesterday a 15 percent reduction in the work force of the port agency as part of a reorganization he hopes will stem the MPA's losses and help the port regain lost business.

"I do know we've got to resolve our finances. I do know we've got to get more business in Baltimore," Mr. Teel said.

Since taking over the leadership of the troubled port agency a little more than two months ago, Mr. Teel has been developing his plan for turning the MPA around. Yesterday he revealed many of the central elements of that plan:

* Cutting 72 of the 467 jobs at the MPA. That would save $2.75 million a year.

* Improving worker morale through a more participatory approach to management.

* Abolition of the position of director of development. This move recognizes that the MPA's ambitious capital expansion program of the past few years is over and that many of the port's terminal facilities are underused because of the loss of shipping lines and cargo.

* Generating more revenue through focused marketing, better customer service and finding uses for unused land and other idle assets.

The MPA has run up deficits in the last three fiscal years and has been projecting the biggest deficit in its history -- $5.5 million -- for the fiscal year that will end next June.

Maintaining that he had no choice but to reduce the size of the agency, Mr. Teel said that in making those cuts, "We want to be as compassionate and professional as possible."

Because some MPA jobs are vacant, the actual number of people laid off will be 46 or fewer. Mr. Teel said that efforts will be made to help people find jobs in other state agencies or in the private sector.

Department heads will report to him in late September on what positions should be cut. Actual layoff notices would be issued Oct. 31, Mr. Teel said.

He acknowledged that the MPA has not done well by its employees in recent years. "Employees were promised certain benefits when they came to the MPA. Those were not delivered," he said. He vowed to rectify that record, saying "If we promise something we're going to deliver it."

Joseph Cook, director of field services for the Maryland Classified Employees Association, said morale at the port agency has been "extremely poor."

"The human resources department has been extremely misdirected. That impacts on employees," he said. But he praised Mr. Teel for showing a willingness to work closely with the employees "to make this as palatable as possible."

Mr. Teel also said that the MPA's treatment of steamship lines has been less than perfect and promised to beef up customer service. For example, the port has been promoting its $250 million Seagirt facility, which opened a year ago, as a state-of-the-art facility with a sophisticated computer system for expediting the movement of cargo. But the performance of the computer system has not been as good as he would like. "We could have done a much better job," he said.

The job cuts, which will not take effect until halfway through the fiscal year, should help the MPA reduce the projected $5.5 million deficit for this year to about $4 million. The goal is to eliminate the deficit by fiscal 1993.

The jobs cuts were generally welcomed as evidence of Mr. Teel's willingness to take the unpleasant steps needed to get the port agency back on an even keel.

"They're like any other business," said Paul F. Connor, president of the John S. Connor steamship agency. "When it comes to a loss of income, at some point you have to take action."

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