Mayor Richard M. Daley said today that time is growing short but the planned layoff of 1,500 unionized city employees July 15 can still be avoided if labor unions will agree to responsible steps aimed at reducing the city’s personnel costs.
“I don't want to lay off any employee. I want every family to be secure. Layoffs can still be avoided,” Daley said in a City Hall news conference.
The Mayor pointed out that yesterday the City Council approved his proposal for a series of unpaid furlough days for non-union employees that will save more than $14 million in the 2009 budget and avert layoffs for non-unionized staff.
A total of 3,700 employees will have to take 15 unpaid furlough days the rest of the year – the six holidays remaining, six furlough days and three days at the end of the year when city government will close down except for essential services.
“I have said all along that I never ask any city employee to do something I and the top members of my administration weren't prepared to do first. These non-union employees are taking a big financial hit, but we concluded it's better for people to have a job and be asked to take some reductions than to have no job at all,” Daley said.
The Mayor said that for the last several months, union leaders have met with his staff to try to reach an agreement that avoid layoffs and take a responsible step toward reducing the city’s personnel costs.
“Already we've heard from some union leaders and from many union members that the cost reductions we're working to achieve are reasonable during the worst recession since the Great Depression.
He was joined at the news conference by Dennis Gannon, President of the Chicago Federation of Labor and Tom Villanova, President of the Chicago and Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council.
“Now, even though no agreement is at hand, we're not giving up. I've instructed my staff to continue our conversations -- up until the last minute if that's what it takes -- so that we aren't forced to make these difficult, but still avoidable layoffs,” he said.
The Mayor repeated that Chicago is in its present budget situation because of the global recession.
He said that to get ahead of the growing budget shortfalls the recession has caused, the City has already cut hundreds of millions of dollars in spending through better management, including more than $31 million this year alone.
“But, even with all the cuts we've made, our city's deficit is growing month by month because our revenues have slowed. Even with better management and reduced spending, we still need the cooperation of our city's union workers, who make up almost 90 percent of our workforce,” Daley said.
The proposed 1,500 layoffs will total $76 million in annual salary reductions across several funds. With a July implementation, they will save $34 million this year, including $24 million in the City’s corporate fund.
They will affect non-sworn union employees across 28 departments, including Streets and Sanitation, Police, Water Management, Aviation, Library, Fleet and CDOT.
The reductions are designed to have the least impact on critical services.
But because the plan includes a significant number of layoffs in the Department of Streets and Sanitation and Water Management, it would likely mean a delay in the delivery of some essential services.
The plan also calls for the layoff of library pages, which may impact the availability of library materials. It also includes layoffs of non-sworn personnel in the police department, such as crossing guards, detention aides and administrators. This may result in some police officers providing supplemental assistance at school crossings and detention facilities.
Daley pointed out that other cities and states are making layoffs, cutting services and raising taxes to balance their budgets.
“But, in Chicago, because people's lives and families are on the line, we've worked hard to avoid taking these steps, so far.
“I understand that families are experiencing hard times and we don't want to make things tougher for any of them, especially during the worst recession in modern times.
But, I want to make it clear that these layoffs can still be avoided if the unions agree with us on a plan to reduce costs in the next two weeks,” he said.