City of Chicago threatening layoffs

June 5, 2009 3:25:26 PM PDT
Union leaders now say they expect the City of Chicago will send lay-off notices to as many as 1,100 workers. However, they're holding out hope that a deal can be reached before the job cuts take effect later this summer. The city is trying to close a $250 million budget deficit and is asking union workers to make concessions.

No one quarrels with the fact the city's budget along with the rest of the economy is hurting. The debate is about how to fix it. Union workers made concessions six months ago. Now they're asking why they have to do it again.

"Nobody wants to get laid off. Nobody wants to go home on unemployment," said Tom Morris, Chicago Water Department employee.

Chicago Water Department workers Tom Morris and Patrick McDonough are keenly aware of the city's budget problems and aren't shy about saying who they think is to blame.

"Every city worker watches Mayor Daley taking trips all over the world. He's not here. He should have been addressing these problems a long time ago, and last minute he wants to take it out on the backs of city workers," said Patrick McDonough, Chicago Water Department employee.

"Where's he trimming the fat or cutting the fat from the top? Fat goes all over the place. How much fat is he cutting off the top management?" said Morris.

The mayor says the size of the city's payroll is down on his watch, while efficiencies are up. But the Daley administration says it's not enough to simply tighten the city's belt, because revenues are plunging.

As a result, City Hall says as many as 1,100 people may need to be laid off, unless city workers agree to take 16 unpaid days off and adjust overtime costs.

A compromise floated Friday calls for those city workers who earn the most to take the most unpaid days off, sparing some lower income workers.

"Personally, I think changing work rules in order to save costs is the best way to go," said Alderman Helen Shiller, 46th Ward.

"I would expect to see some creative ideas put on the table," said Alderman Mary Ann Smith, 48th Ward.

North Side Alderman Mary Ann Smith is among the elected officials earning the ire of city workers. She originally said she'd turn down a pay raise this year, but then quietly accepted one, boosting her pay to $110,500 a year.

Aldermen Balcer, Waguespack, Tunney, Pope, Shiller, Reilly and Fioretti said "no thanks" to the pay hike.

As for whether the unions will agree to another round of concessions, some city workers say they think it's inevitable.

"I don't think we have a choice. Chicago has been mismanaged way too long," McDonough said.

In case you're wondering, Mayor Daley did not get a pay raise this year.

As for negotiations on concessions for city workers, we're told the talks are continuing.


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