Mayor Joseph J. Solomon maintained the position Tuesday that there was no need to eliminate 38 city jobs in order to deliver a no tax increase balanced budget. He said it was the choice of Local 1561, Council 94 of the American Federation
Mayor Joseph J. Solomon maintained the position Tuesday that there was no need to eliminate 38 city jobs in order to deliver a no tax increase balanced budget. He said it was the choice of Local 1561, Council 94 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to reject his offer to reopen their contact and forgo a wage increase or take their chances with layoffs.
The jobs were eliminated with implementation of the 2021 fiscal year budget on Wednesday. Leading up to that, employees were notified of the reduction in positions and a process of bumping based on longevity started causing turmoil and low morale, according to local president Walter Hartley. Not only are city workers with seniority able to bump others out of their jobs, but based on test results are capable of assuming different jobs.
“It’s been a roller coaster for the last two weeks,” Hartley said. “Morale is very low, they’re trying to make sense of it.”
Harley said efforts to talk with the administration have gone unanswered, adding that the union has worked with the city in the past to address financial issues and they are prepared to do so again.
“We just wanted to sit down and talk about things,” he said. He said his calls haven’t been returned.
With the cuts, Hartley said it will be difficult to maintain services and that extra work would be placed on those remaining. Among those departments seeing cuts in staffing are the city clerk, building department and parks and recreation.
“It’s going citywide,” he said.
Solomon called the elimination of the positions unfortunate, pointing out that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the economy including “hundred and hundreds” of layoffs and furloughs in other municipalities.
“You see businesses that have closed down to seeing layoffs that far exceed the number that we implemented in the city. And again, most people weren’t given an option to forego a pay raise next year,” he said.
Solomon reiterated the union membership “voted overwhelmingly” to have layoffs rather than forgo negotiated raises.
Asked about the union’s claim that they repeatedly sought to contact him to work something out, Solomon said, “that statement is disingenuous.”
“And I think that is been very bad for the rank and file of the union. Because somehow I feel they may not have been conveyed proper information or accurate information or truthful information from some of their leaders, and maybe that’s why they voted the way they did. I can think of no other reason why someone would not give up a 2.75 percent increase in pay next year [to save the jobs],” the mayor said.
Solomon was aware that the union has filed a complaint with the State Labor Relations Board. Nonetheless, he argues it was the membership’s decision not to reopen the contract, although Hartley says that was not clearly communicated at the time.
“This is a contract that they negotiated with the prior administration. Right? I gave [Hartley] an option to opt out of that contract in lieu of for going next year’s pay increase. Right? … They’d rather take the layoffs. I don’t think that was proper for the rank and file, but OK, they voted and so be it,” the mayor said.