Unions make budget cut recommendations

July 26, 2011 2:55:52 PM PDT
The city of Chicago could save millions of dollars by cutting middle management jobs. That's one conclusion of a report from the city's labor unions which are under fire from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The unions commissioned the study over a month ago. They were hoping to give Mayor Emanuel some alternatives to city worker layoffs which Emanuel announced anyway two weeks ago.

The report concluded that there are plenty of places to cut Chicago's budget without changing work rules, laying off front line staff and hiring private companies.

"We think before you outsource anything or before you look to cut anything or look for anything else from your workers, you should at least be managing the city in a way that taxpayers really demand," said Jorge Ramirez, Chicago Federation of Labor.

The consultants said the city could reduce its projected deficit, estimated in the range of $600 million, by more than a third or $242 million with efficiencies.

Ironically, the job-centered unions topped their list by suggesting the city should fire many of its managers. The study found that the Family and Support Services Department, headquartered on the Near West Side, has 203 supervisors for only 334 frontline staff.

The study also said the city's hiring of politically favored outside contractors and professionals has bloated city government.

"I think we have to take this a step at a time, $242 million in efficiency savings, in our minds, in our members minds is huge," said Tom Villanova, Building Trades Council.

As he toured an urban farm on the South Side, Mayor Emanuel said he looked forward to reading the union report and noted that he's already begun the process of laying off middle managers

"I agree with that, but that doesn't take away from the fact of every other part of the budget that also has to be scrutinized," said Emanuel.

That includes the union work rules that Emanuel wanted changed immediately to save 625 city worker layoffs that began last weekend.

Ramirez acknowledged the CFL recommendations do not include any changes in current union contracts.

"These efficiency models that we're presenting to the mayor, he knows ahead of time that we're not going to have work rule changes in them," he said.

"Any part of the budget from the mayor's office to work-rule reforms and anything between those boundaries is not off limits. It's on limits," said Emanuel.

The unions also suggested the city begin using its already contracted right to schedule a four-day, 10-hour a day work week for employees who use heavy equipment. The consultants concluded a four-day work week could improve efficiency by as much as 60 percent.

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