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8 City Workers Laid Off Amid Budget Crunch : Spending: Members of employees union vote to reject a cut in pay raises that would have saved the jobs of colleagues.

July 22, 1993|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GLENDALE — Eight city employees will be laid off Aug. 1 after members of an employee association last week overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to accept lower pay raises to save their co-workers' jobs.

Members of the Glendale City Employees Assn., which represents 970 workers, declined a city offer that pay raises be held to 1.96% rather than the 2.75% they are entitled to in the final year of a four-year contract, said Robert McFall, assistant city manager.

The lower rate would have saved the city about $400,000--enough to restore seven of the eight positions to be terminated, said finance director Brian Butler.

The eighth position eliminated is an administrator's and was not affected by the association vote.

Termination notices were mailed Thursday and Friday after results of the association vote were announced last Wednesday, McFall said.

The layoffs are the largest since severe budget cutbacks following passage of the Proposition 13 property tax limitation initiative in 1978, officials said.

More than 76% of association members who voted rejected the city's offer, proposed after weeks of negotiations between city officials and employee representatives. About 85% of the members cast ballots and fewer than 24% agreed to accept the lower pay raise.

The vote was "quite overwhelming," said Art Sandoz, employee association president. He said employees consistently have turned down the city's request that they make concessions on raises--based on the annually adjusted regional Consumer Price Index--because it would set a poor precedent in accepting raises below the rate of inflation.

Sandoz also said that civil service rules grant laid-off employees first priority for jobs in their classification that subsequently open because of attrition. While several layoffs were threatened last year, for instance, only one or two employees lost their jobs, officials said.

The city's two other employee groups, representing firefighters and police officers, had earlier declined similar proposals to accept lower pay increases.

Employee raises this year accounted for a $3.2-million increase in the city's expenses, Butler said. About $500,000 of that was trimmed by the City Council with a freeze on raises for administrators, who work without a contract.

City officials declined to name the employees who were mailed termination notices last week. However, the layoffs include two of the city's 13 building inspectors, two civil engineers, a park maintenance worker, a custodian, a Glendale Civic Auditorium coordinator and an information services administrator.

Jose Lopez, 37, a coordinator for the Civic Auditorium for eight years and one of the seven association members being laid off, said he "didn't blame" workers for refusing to accept a lower pay raise. He said that, although the proposal "was an obscenity" and it "infuriated me . . . I voted to keep my job."

Lopez said that a trend is developing in the city to hire more part-time workers and outside contractors who do not receive health benefits to replace full-time positions.

"There is a certain amount of deceit in that," he said. "I don't believe the city is dealing in good faith."

He also questioned the city's logic in eliminating one of 10 positions at the auditorium at the same time it is planning a $12-million renovation and expansion of the popular meeting facility.

Lopez said that although he will be hurt financially, he has been working outside his city job as a free-lance theatrical lighting designer and plans to expand his work in that field.

Robert R. Jorgensen, 59, a 27-year administrator and the only manager to lose his job, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the city's action. He said he was notified last spring that his position was likely to be trimmed from the city's budget, which had a $6.4-million shortfall in revenues over expenses.

Jorgensen in February had declined the city's offer of six months pay as an early retirement incentive. He said he "did a few calculations" and decided he "would be better off financially" if he took his chances that his job might be saved.

Jorgensen said his position as information services administrator--in charge of the city's computer center--became obsolete a year ago when three city departments were consolidated into one division and a new division manager was hired from outside the city.

Unlike the other employees being laid off, Jorgensen is eligible for early retirement, but will not receive the six-month incentive bonus.

"I wish that it wasn't happening," he said. "A person would much rather pick their own time for retirement."

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