Budget Negotiations Finalized—Layoff Notices Likely Coming to Affected Employees This Week
As you are aware, in December the City Council voted to approve the Mayor’s proposed 18-month budget plan to close the City’s $179 million budget deficit. The plan called for more than $100 million in “one time” non-personnel cuts, as well as the elimination of hundreds of unfilled employee positions and approximately 200 filled positions (layoffs) Citywide.
MEA representatives have spent the last several weeks negotiating with the City in an attempt both to restore some of the proposed job cuts and to minimize the impacts of the cuts that will be carried out. The negotiations included numerous face to face meetings with representatives from the City and the exchange of written settlement proposals, a process that is continuing as late as this morning.
During that time, the number of MEA-represented positions slated for elimination has decreased, though not as much as we had hoped. We were also able to secure agreements with the City to reduce some of the impacts of the impending layoffs in certain departments. In all, more than 100 MEA-represented employees will receive layoff notices, likely in the next few days. The layoffs are scheduled to become effective March 1.
The cuts to civilian employees in the Police Department are especially harsh because they will negatively impact public safety and will cost the City more in the long run because the City explicitly intends to replace lower cost civilian employees with higher cost sworn personnel. But the City believes its budget plan in PD will solve the deficit for this year, which is all anybody at City Hall cares about at the moment. It seems as though San Diego was built on counterproductive, short-term thinking, and this budget cycle has been no different.
Continuing to attempt to change this budget reality would only be counterproductive to MEA-represented employees who will be affected by this reduction in force and who want to pursue other employment with the City. The recent development of an additional $15.3 million (or more) general fund deficit that needs to be filled by the City in the next few months has made the restoration of any more cut positions from this budget cycle quite literally impossible.
It is time to take what concessions we have been able to secure and move on to the next step in this dreadful downsizing process—to make sure that as many affected employees as possible will be able to maintain some type of employment with the City.
With that goal in mind, MEA will be working very closely with affected employees in the next few weeks. Along with Personnel Department Analysts, every effort will be made to ensure that displaced employees have an opportunity to maintain employment with the City, albeit in a different classification or department. There are still more than 100 non-sworn vacant positions in the City’s new budget, so the hope is that a large number of laid off employees will be able to move to these remaining positions.
We strongly recommend that if you receive a layoff notice that you contact MEA immediately. In the past, employees facing layoff have had a better, less stressful experience with the Personnel Department when an MEA representative attended appointments with employees. When you have an MEA representative with you, you have an advocate to support you every step of the way and to maximize your chances of being able to stay employed with the City. The Personnel Department has an excellent record of being very aggressive (and creative) in doing everything possible to provide displaced employees with as soft a landing as possible and has worked well with MEA to accomplish that in the past.
Once you contact MEA, your representative will contact the designated Personnel Analyst to schedule an appointment for the two of you to attend. You will be informed of your rights and your options, and the MEA representative will ensure that all of your questions are answered and that the layoff rules are followed. We will make certain that you have all of the information you need to help make important decisions throughout the process.
It is remarkable that our City leaders only seem to address budget shortfalls by continuing to cut essential employees and services. Perhaps someday City officials might actually consider making the citizens of San Diego simply pay their fair share for the services they receive, much like every other municipality in California. But given that 2010 is another election year, that type of common sense approach to the budget shortfalls might once again be too much to expect.
In the meantime, we will continue to fight to protect your rights and help all MEA-represented employees get through this period. As always, please do not hesitate to contact your elected MEA Board representatives in the workplace or your MEA staff representatives at 619-264-6632.