Port of Oakland plans to cut 100 jobs

August 1, 2008 7:19:53 PM PDT
Major layoffs will hit the Port of Oakland soon and the port blames the economic downturn. However, some of those losing their jobs blame mismanagement of the port's finances and current expansion.

Improvement projects at the Port of Oakland and at the Oakland International Airport have the port more than a billion dollars in debt and now it has some employees paying part of the price.

On Friday employees with the Port of Oakland learned their ship may no longer be coming in. The port is cutting 15 percent of its workforce, eliminating 100 jobs.

"It is a very unfortunate but necessary step the port had to take," said the Director of Public Affairs for the Port of Oakland, Libby Schaff.

The port is hit by the bad economy by air, land, and sea. It oversees the seaport, a lot of waterfront property, and the Oakland International Airport.

"We're in the transportation business and the transportation business is impacted by the cost of fuel," said Schaff.

In addition to cutting its service and support divisions by one third, the port is cutting its engineering department in half.

"You can just imagine the morale in an organization where half the people are going to be gone and yet the workload's not being reduced by half," said David Peixotto, a engineer with the Port of Oakland.

Peixotto said he got notice of the pending layoffs, but there won't be any specifics until August 15th.

"Nobody knows whether it's them or whether it is the person next to them, but everybody knows that the whole organization is going to be impacted," said Peixotto.

"We do not want to do layoffs, we have to do layoffs," said Schaff.

Part of the reason for the layoffs, is the port is more than $1 billion in bond debt alone. These bonds backed the recent expansions at the seaport and the airport.

"An investment in maintaining and modernizing our facilities is a prudent biz practice," said Schaff. "But it sounds like it's having a negative impact on the port today," said ABC7's Anne Makovec. "The impact on the port is that, going forward under the current economic conditions, we're not going to be planning any future expansions," said Schaff.

They'll be giving out 62 pink slips and beyond that 38 positions, already vacant, won't be filled. The port says they'll finish the projects they've already started, but Peixotto and the engineer's union, aren't so sure.

"At the end of the day, there may be some significant broken promises," said Peixotto. "I believe that the port made a lot of bad management decisions that led us to where we are."

Unfortunately, this may be the start of more layoffs to come. A union spokesperson said that he's gotten word that next year's cuts could be even worse.


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