Emanuel Reveals Plan To Lay Off 625 City Workers
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UPDATED: 7/15/2011 9:00 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel today said he plans to lay off 625 city workers as part of a plan to close a $10 million budget gap.
Emanuel said he will outsource airport and library janitors, benefits management workers and workers at the water billing call center. He also plans to cut seasonal transportation department workers. Under contract, the workers are given a 30 day notice of a planned layoff.
“Today, I took the steps because I cannot wish away the shortfall,” said Emanuel, who had wanted alternative suggestions for savings from unions.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports
Under the plan:
- Custodial services at the airports and libraries will no longer be provided by city workers, but rather by the companies that currently service the rest of the city;
- There will be a 75 percent reduction in the seasonal workforce at the Chicago Department of Transportation, which will mean 61 fewer blocks of curb and gutter improvements and the repair of 76 fewer blocks of sidewalk this year;
- The city’s benefits services will not be managed by the city, but rather by a professional benefits management company; and
- The city’s water bill call center currently has an average wait time of 20 minutes, and 40 percent of callers hang up before being helped. The service will be outsourced to realize savings and increase efficiencies.
Meanwhile, union leaders say despite the rhetoric, Emanuel hasn’t been talking with them about cost-saving work rule changes he wants to see.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports
As WBBM Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports from City Hall, more than once this week, Mayor Emanuel has said he’s given the city’s labor unions time to decide on contract changes that could reduce personnel costs, such as ending time-and-a-half pay for duties before a shift.
“I also believe when it comes to overtime, you should get time-and-a-half, not double time. These are simple reforms,” he said. “The third one, obviously, being paid for 40 hours of work a week, not 35,” he said.
Henry Bayer is president of AFSCME Council 31, which represents 3,500 city workers. He says there have been no formal meetings about any of this.
“We’ve gotten no letter asking for a meeting,” he said. “We got one phone call late in the afternoon, wanting to know what we thought of their proposal. We said, ‘What proposal?’”
The administration disputes that claim.
“We are surprised and disappointed at Mayor Emanuel’s scattershot approach to the city’s budget shortfall,” Bayer said. “We are particularly disappointed that most of his bullets are aimed at front-line employees who do the real work of city government.
Emanuel unilaterally did $20 million in belt-tightening recently to try to erase the $30 million shortfall created by his decision to end mandatory furlough days for city employees. He is asking the unions to come up with an additional $10 million through work rule changes or other means.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports
A total of 8,000 to 10,000 union workers could be affected altogether by layoffs and/or work rule changes, reports CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall.
Recent meetings to negotiate work-rule changes have included AFL-CIO chief Jorge Ramirez, Mayor Emanuel himself, and city budget director Alexandra Holt.
Top labor leaders hold court on “At Issue,” at Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Newsradio 780.
One of the city workers facing layoffs is Jeannie Gayles. She told CBS2’s Mike Parker the news hit her “like a ton of bricks.”
For 12 years, she has worked for the city’s Department of General Services. She’s been making $17 an hour as a custodian at the Carter G. Woodson Public Library on the South Side. Now she’s facing the loss of that job.
“None of us know what we’re going to do,” she said. “We’re sitting in limbo right now because we still have mortgages to pay, we have insurance, we have taxes.”