Saving Jobs by Laying Off Workers. And Rehiring them.

City Hall is open to creative measures to balance the City’s $522 million 2010 – 2011 budget deficit. One plan being discussed (not approved) is to lay off people who are paid for working 40 hours/week jobs, and hire people who will work the same jobs but be paid for 37.5 hours/week. Details are in formulation. Some departments weighed in about the possibility of paying overtime to cover the hours not worked following the change. Or perhaps people will find that they can do the work that filled 40 hours in 37.5. This is not to say City workers are slackers. Don’t believe that for a moment. I’ve seen City workers first-hand, day after day, while I worked in City Hall. Those people personified accomplishment and commitment to public service.

Still, it is only 2.5 hours over a week. One-half hour a day. Considering the talent the City employs, it may well be that this reduced workweek will produce the $50 million in projected savings (health and vacation benefits will remain intact) and still deliver quality services. Many private companies pay their hourly staff for only 37.5 hours/week. For these companies, it is a normal week.

No one should minimize the disruption and uncertainty for the thousands of workers who could be affected by such a plan. People will lose their jobs. They will have to apply for a job. The transition period will definitely not be conducive to improved productivity and may feel abusive. It could create resentment. Destroy trust. In a civilized world, uncertainty about whether one job will follow a lost one, to shave 2.5 hours from a work week, should be minimized. If such a plan is adopted, civilized implementation should be a priority for the City. If that can be managed, the savings will be savored.

We’ll stay tuned. LLII

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