CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel has begun officially notifying employees that he soon will begin laying off hundreds of city workers if their unions don’t agree to $10 million worth of changes in their work rules.

The notice came in a letter to city employees, which also asked for their help in saving money and, therefore, jobs.

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CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine talked with the mayor on Wednesday about the tough decisions he said he’s been forced to make – decisions about the lives and futures of 625 workers, while city officials and union leaders argue over cost-saving reforms.

The letter from the mayor to all city of Chicago employees talks about the
reforms he has proposed to union leaders.

“By adopting these workplace reforms,” the letter said, “we can save jobs. But reforms have not been agreed upon. Thus, I must begin the process of laying off up to 625 city workers.”

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Lacking input from union leaders, who said their ideas are still a week or two away, the mayor appealed to the workers themselves.

“Some of the best ideas for savings” he wrote, “come from employees who are on the front lines every day.”

Asked if there is a way to avoid the layoffs if they can reach agreement on one of his ideas or one of labor’s ideas in the next couple of weeks, Emanuel said, “I’ve laid nine ideas out, worth $20 million of savings; adopting practices that are common now in both the public and private sector, throughout the city, throughout the country. I’m looking for any idea or an agreement on mine.”

Consultants for labor leaders are still working on their ideas, which we’ve learned involve savings on city contracts, cutting top and mid-level management, and setting up an apprentice program.

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Some of Emanuel’s ideas have been proposed before and neither side seems to think much of the other’s. The final showdown is still a couple of weeks away.