Newsom, city workers at odds over layoffs

March 10, 2010 7:00:02 PM PST
These are not good days for employees of the city of San Francisco. With layoff notices going out in every direction and a plan to reduce work hours, unions are threatening to sue. Options were discussed Wednesday at City Hall.

Union leaders call the mayor's layoff plan "ill-conceived" and "haphazard." The unions have other ideas, including furloughs and even temporary closures for City Hall, as a way to save jobs.

Stephani Thompson is a clerk at the city attorney's office. She received her layoff notice last week and is pretty gloomy about it.

"Now that we've been fired there's not much hope, but maybe they will do something," she said.

Union leaders are not rolling over, telling supervisors that the pink slips are creating havoc. And they are offering counter proposals; for example, reducing the outsourcing of jobs that they say amounts to $1.4 billion a year.

"So if city employees agree to a 3 percent reduction, there should be a 3 percent reduction in outsourcing," union representative Bob Muscat said.

And he thinks the city should also impose a hiring freeze.

"A real hiring freeze, so that we don't have people being laid off at the same time other people are being fired," he said.

Muscat says the city should also put a tax proposal before voters.

"If people really want the same level of services that they're currently enjoying, they have to give consideration to some ballot measure," he said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom reiterated that he is willing to explore other options.

"I'll keep an open mind," he said.

He has mailed layoff notices to more than 15,000 city employees with plans to rehire most of them if they will work 37.5 hours a week rather than 40. The city controller's office says that will save more than $100 million from May of this year to June 2011.

The Department of Health has more than 4,700 positions affected for a savings of $35.5 million. The Recreation and Park Department has over 900 for a savings of $4.4 million, and the Department of Public Works with over 1,000 positions for a savings of nearly $5 million.

Still even with a reduced workweek across city government, San Francisco would remain more than $400 million in the hole.

The mayor and the union leaders are scheduled to sit down Thursday. It will be their first meeting since the layoff notices went out last week.


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