246 LA city workers to get layoff notices Wednesday

A coalition of city employee unions asked today for a reprieve from layoffs scheduled to take effect July 1, but the Los Angeles City Council refused unless the unions first make concessions.

"We can't balance (the budget) with imaginary money,'' City Council President Eric Garcetti said. "We can't say `let's keep everybody employed' because we would then be in a deficit.''

On Wednesday, the city is slated to issue pink slips to at least 246 members of the Coalition of Los Angeles City Unions, who would be taken off the payroll July 1.

It is the first round of 761 layoffs approved by the mayor and council to help eliminate a $465 million deficit in the upcoming fiscal year.

Victor Gordo, counsel for the coalition, insisted that laying off 246 employees who make a combined total of $13.4 million "makes no sense.''

Under the current contract between the city and coalition, layoffs would trigger a 5.7 percent pay raise for 20,000 remaining employees, which would put a $28 million dent in the city's general fund, he said.

"We said to the City Council that L.A.'s workers are saying no to wage increases and yes to protecting city services,'' Gordo said. "We also asked the city council to continue the work of (transferring employees to departments that do not draw salaries from the general fund).''

Gordo and several other union leaders addressed the council during a closed-door meeting this afternoon, and asked that no layoffs be implemented at least until October.

But Garcetti told reporters after the meeting, "As is, this budget is balanced July 1st. If there's going to be an alternative to that, it needs to buy us the cost of that extension. It has to buy us those three months.''

He urged the unions to make concessions, such as voluntary furloughs.

"I think there are small things that are perfectly reasonable, where we all as city employees would pay more for our health care or visits to the doctor and things like that, which could prevent layoffs,'' Garcetti said.

To offset the pay raises, the city plans to resort to furloughs, except for police officers and firefighters.

Under the budget, employees who receive a pay raise will be forced to take 26 unpaid days off. Other employees will have to take 16 unpaid days off.

Gordo maintains that furloughs would be in violation of the contract, and threatened to file a lawsuit.

"The agreement that we have with the city prohibits the unilateral implementation of furloughs,'' he said. "Should the city proceed with it, we will defend the agreement and ask the court to give effect to the absolute prohibition on the unilateral implementation of furloughs.''

Of the 246 employees slated for layoffs on July 1, 100 are library staffers, 70 are childcare workers, 30 are recreation coordinators and park rangers, and several more are clerk/typists.

It would result in libraries operating five days a week instead of the usual six. Some childcare centers whose operations are nearly entirely subsidized by the city would be closed or see a reduction in hours, but those funded by state and federal grants would remain open.