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When a Layoff Isn't a Layoff

September 16, 1993|MARC LACEY

In the business world, a layoff is a layoff: A pink slip is handed over and the worker hits the streets.

But in Los Angeles City Hall, the word's meaning is a bit more complex.

The city budget approved earlier this year included 120 layoffs, one of the deepest staffing cutbacks in city history. But only two or three city workers were actually forced to send out resumes. The rest were transferred to other city posts.

Mayor Richard Riordan's budget plan released on Wednesday calls for an estimated 24 layoffs, but the mayor says none of the targeted employees will be forced off the city payroll.

City officials explain that attrition continuously chips away at the city's 44,000-person full-time work force, meaning the city is almost always filling vacant positions--even during the city's three-year hiring freeze (another relative term).

"Layoff means we reduce the number of jobs," said Phil Henning, assistant general manager in the city's Personnel Department. "The person loses their job through no fault of their own. But that doesn't mean they don't get another job."

The city's definition has some taxpayers' groups confused.

"Everybody in the city of Los Angeles should get a bureaucratic dictionary," said Joel Fox, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. "Why use the term layoff if it isn't?"

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