Will Emanuel lay off hundreds of city workers?

July 14, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Earlier this month, the mayor gave the city labor unions 10 days to two weeks to agree to work rule changes that would help balance the city budget.

Like the fairy tale "Boy Who Cried Wolf," is Rahm Emanuel "The mayor who cried layoff?" Twice during the past few weeks he has threatened to pink slip hundreds of city workers if their unions do not agree to contract changes. The possibility of layoffs came up again Thursday morning after Emanuel recognized some early successes of his administration.

The mayor chose the Water Department as the setting to "highlight reforms" his administration had accomplished during its first two months. He was joined by several department heads and the City Colleges chancellor, who all claimed millions of dollars in cost savings during the past eight weeks.

"What we're seeing is, we're doing more work with less resources," said Water Commissioner Thomas Powers.

"We undertook very targeted layoffs and reduced our operating costs," said Cheryl Hyman, City Colleges chancellor.

"This is a collaborative effort between employers, management team and employees thinking together, How do we serve the taxpayers better?" said Emanuel.

As the mayor spoke, city employees -- including many in the Water Department -- worried about the growing possibility of layoffs.

On July 1, the mayor said he would wait as long as two weeks for unions to suggest work rules changes to balance the current year's budget or he would send layoff notices to 625 workers.

The mayor, still without a union answer, was asked repeatedly Thursday if what he said earlier this month meant that he would act on Friday, July 15 -- two weeks later.

"You'll all be informed when I do it," Emanuel said.

Wednesday, Chicago Federation of Labor boss Jorge Ramirez told ABC7 the mayor never gave the unions a deadline.

"The mayor asked us to take a look at efficiencies in government. We took that to heart, and what we've done is, actually, things we've done things that we've never done before," said Ramirez.

"I've given people two weeks who have asked for two weeks," said Emanuel, "and I've taken the necessary steps. I have not been shy about confronting a problem that I was not responsible for creating, and I will solve the problem and do it appropriately and get it done."

Also Thursday, Emanuel announced private grants of $2 million a year for three years from Bloomberg Philanthropies, enhanced by $1 million a year from local donors, to help the city create and implement government efficiencies. That's $3 million a year to put a "top notch team" in the mayor's office to find ways to deliver taxpayers better services for less of their money.

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