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April 19, 2011 > Plans for Reducing City Workforce

Plans for Reducing City Workforce

By Abraham Cruz

The City of Milpitas faces a $10M budget gap because of a significant structural deficit. The Citizens Budget Task Force identified the high cost of labor as a leading reason for the deficit and recommended a reduction of the size of city staff. Labor costs need to be restructured so they are more manageable.

Council introduced an ordinance on April 15, 2011 to provide for reductions to the city's workforce. The ordinance is intended to create performance-based criteria for layoffs and eliminate seniority and bumping rights. This will ensure retention of highly efficient employees instead of someone with more seniority but less job knowledge and/or experience (in their respective employment position). Also affected is the re-hire list, which would be shortened from seven years to three years and would be based on need. If layoffs become a reality, the overall goal is to maintain a smaller yet more efficient workforce.

Many of the Council's concerns focused on the need for ongoing performance-based reviews to make the process' fairness. Numerous city employees attended the meeting and objected to the proposed changes to the municipal code. Some of the public comments were from employees with many years of service and their concerns reflected Council's.

City employee Gerardo Amador explained one of the problems with eliminating seniority. Amador has worked for the city for 10 years and his is concerned he might be laid-off because he has moved to various jobs or departments every few years, with little experience and seniority in each position; his employment situation is complex and not addressed within the proposed ordinance.

Chris Darker, United Public Employees of California, submitted a letter to Council expressing concern. The ordinance was not presented properly to Council, as his union had not met and conferred on the issue. Darker has met with leaders of the different bargaining units and they unhappy with the language of the proposed ordinance; they threatened impasse or an Unfair Labor Practice complaint.

In response, City Attorney Michael Ogaz said he felt appropriate notice had been submitted, but suggested further discussions would be necessary to ensure proper discussion and implementation. City Manager Tom Williams has met with all of the City's labor groups and solicited their input and feedback; some of the feedback addressed concerns of implementation and age discrimination. Williams offered to meet with Mr. Darker at 10:00 A.M. the next day to discuss the proposed ordinance changes and meet and confer process.

Mayor Jose Esteves favored further discussion and legal compliance with the ordinance and the stakeholders. Council passed a motion to bring back the ordinance at the next City Council meeting with more options and revisions based around job performance within job classifications. The last round of layoffs occurred two years ago.

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