SF mayor announces move to cut city workers' hours

March 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
There is tough news for thousands of people who work for the City of San Francisco. They just found out they could be fired unless they agree to a shorter work week. It is a strong-arm tactic the mayor is taking to save some money.

San Francisco faces its worst budget deficit in history, worth $522 million going into the new fiscal year. The mayor thinks it is going to be significantly higher than that. This move would save about $50 million.

The idea is 26,000 city employees who work a 40-hour work week; on Friday, 15,000 of them will get layoff notices and they may get their jobs back if they are willing to work fewer hours - 37.5 a week and take a smaller paycheck.

The mayor is saying this would save thousands of jobs, but there is a lot of uncertainty at City Hall.

"We're actually doing everything to avoid layoffs, so we actually have to on the technical side, submit layoffs, in order to do that and then we will rehire people back. The question is will we rehire every single person back, I can't promise that. But it is our intent to rehire people back," said Mayor Gavin Newsom.

"It's about a six percent pay cut. You know, a tighter budget at home, but at the workplace we're going to lose people and that means we're doing more work with less people," said city employee Adam Gubser.

"When you're sitting in a pot with 20,000 other people and you don't know if you are one of the people that will or will not get their job back, you don't feel real good," said San Francisco General registered nurse Rebecca King-Morrow.

King-Morrow says 4,000 of the pink slips are headed just for the health department, which will affect medics, nurses, and custodians.

Local union reps are sure public service will be disrupted.

"We don't know what it would mean for the public. Does that mean library hours would change? Does that mean medical clinic hours would change? We don't have any other information," said Pattie Tamura from SEIU Local 1021.

The mayor said he wanted shifts staggered and workloads shuffled. Yes, it could mean more work for some.

"Let's be adults. Let's deal with reality. The alternative is they may not have a job," said Newsom.

Under city charter, the mayor has the ability to make such a move without approval from the Board of Supervisors, but Gubser says the unions are organizing right now to fight it. Gubser says they are questioning the legality of all of this.

They mayor was supposed to meet with unions before making such a deal, but again 60-day notices are going out on Friday to 15,000 city workers across the spectrum. The positions include managers, secretaries, librarians, gardeners and the like. The only folks who are exempt are those dealing with public safety: police, fire, and the sheriff's department.