San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s plan to reduce the work hours of some 15,000 city employees to help stave off a historic budget deficit drew condemnation today from union leaders as many city workers begin to receive layoff notices.
Newsom said earlier this week that the “overwhelming majority” of the noticed workers would be rehired at 37.5 hours per week instead of 40 hours, as a way of preventing thousands of outright layoffs. He did acknowledge that more layoffs would be necessary.
The city is facing an estimated $522 million budget deficit.
“We think it’s unnecessary and not really legal for the mayor to be doing this,” said Bob Muscat, executive director of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, which represents about 4,000 engineers, architects, and Internet technology and public health employees.
Muscat said he believes a majority of his union’s employees would be getting the notices today. They will not go into effect until May.
According to Muscat, “just about every labor agreement” in the city defines workers’ contracts as 40-hour workweeks.
“It’s kind of a mean-spirited manipulation of the rules to avoid the contract obligation, and few employers can get away with that,” he said.
Muscat also chairs the Public Employee Committee for San Francisco, which comprises all the city’s public sector unions and is working together to put together a counter-proposal.
Newsom said on Wednesday that his administration has been in discussions with labor groups for more than a year and has not received “any better ideas.”
Muscat called that assertion “completely inaccurate.”
“Everybody realizes that we have, probably, a historic problem here,” Muscat said.
The unions will propose that Newsom reduce the city’s outsourcing of labor, which Muscat said constituted “over a billion dollars,” and also that the salaries of the mayor, board of supervisors and high-level city managers be lowered.
“It has to be the same number as what city employees end up agreeing to,” Muscat said.
“So we’re not trying to run away from the problems,” he said. “We don’t want to be railroaded.”