15,000 SF city employees get layoff notices

March 5, 2010 6:40:58 PM PST
On Friday, 15,000 San Francisco city workers received pink slips. That means they will be laid off in 60 days, only to be rehired as part-time workers. The idea is to save $50 million.

At a press conference Friday morning, Mayor Gavin Newsom said -- not once, but three times -- that he is doing this to save jobs and city services. He will also ask hi department heads to take a 10 percent pay cut. He said "I am confident they will do this."

City workers received their 60-day notice.

"This says I have two months period, my job is no longer needed. I have until May 8. I have a layoff notice," said city employee Jo Elias-Jackson.

But in the next two weeks almost all workers will get another letter asking them to come back, but offering only 37.5 hours per week.

"Make less money and work is still the same, the work has to get done," said city employee Priscilla Olivas.

This reduction in hours represents a pay cut of 6.25 percent, so a person making $50,000 a year would see their salary go down to $46,875. Their benefits would not be affected.

The mayor says it is either that or permanently lay off thousands of workers. Newsom told reporters he has taken a 15 percent pay cut.

"My chief of staff, 15 percent pay cut. I am asking every department head to take a 10 percent pay cut not just 6.25 percent. We are all in this together," said Newsom.

The layoffs and shorter work week save the city $50 million general fund dollars. Still, the mayor called this a drop in the bucket -- a 10 percent solution. The city faces a shortfall of $522 million in the upcoming fiscal year.

The heads of the more than 30 unions representing city workers met Friday afternoon. They will try to stop the mayor from implementing this reduced work week.

Newsom maintains the unions knew this was coming; something they deny.

"The facts need to be put forth that we did engage in conversations. We have had multiple meetings on this. This was an idea that came out of last year's budget discussions," said Newsom.

"The first indication we had he was interested in this proposal, the 37.5 hour week proposal, was in a letter on February 18. So, others have asked me about that and in all honesty I can't explain it. I really don't know where he is getting that from," said union representative Bob Muscat.

The mayor also said other cities around the nation are cutting jobs as well. For example, L.A. wants to cut 4,000 municipal jobs, San Jose is proposing 700 layoffs and New York City has the same story.

Newsom calls his plan innovative and said that the unions should embrace it, instead of criticizing it because he says technically these layoffs are not permanent. The union predicts it will never go through.


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