Newsom's plan means service cuts

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SEIU workers protest cuts -- to wages and services (photo courtesy SEIU)

The San Francisco Controller's Office says that Mayor Newsom's plan to lay off 15,000 city employees then hire most of them back at a reduced workweek will save $110 million. The Examiner quotes the mayor:

“The 37½-hour idea was a way of equalizing,” Newsom said in an interview Tuesday. “I would have to go to every single labor union, open contracts that are closed and engage with those open contracts in collective bargaining for each and every local.
“Every labor union is in this together. We aren’t going to pick and choose. That being said, they are coming back Thursday with a set of alternatives, and I will keep an open mind.”

Actually, it's not exactly equalizing -- no police officers or firefighters will get what amounts to 6.25 percent pay cuts. But here's the more important issue:

The mayor -- and, to a great extent, the newspapers -- present this as a simple way of saving money; sure, the workers take a little hit in their pay, but jobs are preserved. What nobody's saying is that this will amount to more very significant service cuts.

Take 15,000 employees and cut 2.5 hours from each of their workweeks. That's 37,500 hours of work a week, or the equivalent of 937 full-time jobs. So one of two things are going to happen: Either city employees are going to be working 40 hours for 37.5 hours pay -- that is, taking a direct pay cut, which is what I think Newsom really wants -- or the city's going to lose the equivalent of 937 workers.

If you assume that it's unfair to ask people to work 40 hours for 37.5 hours pay (and if you assume, as I do, that the unions won't stand for that), we're going to be talking about service cuts -- work that doesn't get done. And where will those cuts happen? Guess what -- it's the usual places.

Public health takes the biggest hit, with $35.5 million in "savings" (actually, cuts) over the next 14 months. Human Services gets $10 million cut, and Muni about $8 million.

That means longer lines and sicker people at SF General, and more broken buses with no mechanics to fix them, which means slower Muni service ... you get the picture.

I'm not saying that we don't need cuts, and you could argue that it's more fair to cut everyone's pay a little than to eliminate 937 jobs altogether. But let's be honest about this -- it's not just "salary savings." It's service cuts. On top of last year's service cuts, on top of the previous year's service cuts ... and it's being done without any real overall plan for what services we need to provide and what takes priority.

And of course, it's being done with no discussion at all of raising new revenue.  

Comments

McKinsey Consulting used to do a brisk business (don't know if they still do) of going into a corporation or organization and analyzing the tasks workers do, listing each activity and the number of hours per week.

They invariably found that there were a few hours each week (sometimes much more) doing non-productive and non-frontline tasks. Anyone who has sat through "the weekly meeting", undergone endless variations of "diversity training" or got circulated on interminable email lists knows the feeling.

McKinsey did it to reduce headcount, of course. But it could apply equally here.

Point is, the last half hour of every day is when people are most tired and least productive. I've noticed myself how if I take a Friday afternoon off, I can often step up the pace and get all my week's work done in 4.5 days. Workers paid by piece work can attest to the same phenomenon. I have this strange feeling that perhaps not all City employees are working flat out for 40 hours a week.

So we might not even notice any difference in output.

Second, pay for the last 2.5 hours per week is at one's highest marginal rate. So that 6.25% decrease in pay will probably reduce net pay by more like 5%. I suspect that most thinking staff would offer to cut their pay by 5% to save 6.25% of their colleagues from being fired. And in this case, the bonus is that they get to go home 1/2 hour early.

A better question would be this. How do the City even measure the performance of their staff? If they can't then how would anyone know what effect, if any, this will have?

Posted by Tom Foolery on Mar. 10, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

Tim posted the other day that all these hand outs to the various special interest groups in the city (and state) were peanuts.

The city runs on good intentions according to the progressives, then when the good intentions run out, they need some real money.

I asked a gay guy at work if he even knew this place existed, he so no and we laughed. It's another white elephant vote getter that the tax payer gets stuck with, again.

When it finely closes maybe they can move the cities department of labor, environment and good intentions into it..

From SFGATE

=====
"
Eight years after opening with great fanfare, San Francisco's city-subsidized, $12.3 million Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center is on the verge of foreclosure - and is asking the cash-strapped city for a $1 million line of credit to help bail it out.

And from the looks of things, the center will probably get it.

The thinking: The city has already spent about $5.7 million on the building at Market and Octavia streets and needs to "make sure it doesn't go under," said Supervisor David Campos, who along with fellow gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty is seeking approval of a $1 million "mortgage relief" fund.
"

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 10, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

Glen, I know you'd probably like to think that all LGBT people are "gay guys at work hahaha" -- and that of course we all know each other and are all minutely aware of what's happening in our community (just like black people!) -- but actually the Center serves tons of lower income queer people by helping with recovery, safety issues, job fairs, skill training, therapy referral, and other aid that doesn't actually translate into a lot of income for the Center itself (and that many A-Gays in the city are loathe to pitch in for).

It isn't just a bunch of "gay guys" discussing America's Next Top Model over canapes and mimosas at Sunday brunch on the rooftop terrace. This is not just about a building, or a "vote getter" -- it's about a vital part of the community, taking care of people that many gay people in this city would prefer didn't exist.    

Posted by marke on Mar. 10, 2010 @ 7:30 pm

...Is that it is another super expensive place with redundant programs paid for by the city?

It's really burns you up that many of us interact with gay people on a daily basis and think nothing of it, (they are just like everyone else you know?) or is that gay people can live without being "part of the community" in every aspect of their lives that bothers you so much?

I know it bothers "progressive" when people don't identify correctly or enough, but just because you feel entitled, doesn't mean that you are.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 10, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

lol @ "bums you up" 

and I meant "community" as in the SF community. So funny how no one wants people on the street and yet no one wants to help them either.

Posted by marke on Mar. 10, 2010 @ 10:25 pm

Tim - what are your top proposals to raise revenue and what is their chance of being implemented in today's economy?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2010 @ 6:20 pm

There's no doubt that peole get tired toward the end of the day and that it's possible that some city workers aren't fully productive every one of their 40 hours. But cutting their work week by 2.5 hours won't suddenly make them more productive. Some workers can just cram more into less time, but others -- say, bus drivers, or nurses -- work shifts. You can't be more productive driving a bus and get 40 hours worth of driving done in 37.5, unless you give up safety. You can't cover a 40-hour shift in the emergency room in 37.5 hours. You can't staff a desk at a library for 40 hours in 37.5. So city services will offer less.

As for taxes, I've talked about this a lot. I think if city officials took a hard look a the entire way San Francisco is funded -- every tax, every fee, every source of revenue -- and then looked at all the options to make the tax system more fair and more progressive, and then looked at how to bring in some more money, people would accept it. The current structure is a mess, regressive, inflexible, unfair. Small businesses pay the same percentage tax as giant conglomerates. Sales taxes hit the poor harder than the rich. There are much better ways.

My first choice is a city income tax -- or rather, a tax on income earned in the city, which hits commuters, too. Income taxes are the most fair and progressive way of raising money for the public sector.

Posted by tim on Mar. 10, 2010 @ 7:23 pm

Tim,

Without seeing the breakdown of how those drivers, nurses etc spend their time, it's impossible to say whether there is slack-time or down-time that can be absorbed.

How much time do they spend attending meetings, filling out forms, completing bureaucratic forms etc when they should be engaged in "real" work?

As for taxes my take would be "fine, bring it on" because unlike other measures, tax increases require voter approval. If the voters approve it then really nobody can complain,

But I suspect a lot of people are like me and want to see concessions from the public sector unions before feeling good about tax hikes. I don't like throwing more tax money to sustain a pay and benefits package that in many cases exceed what you can get in the private sector, all with (still) better job security and unionized contracts.

The pain needs to be spread wide.

Posted by Tom Foolery on Mar. 10, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

Um. I work at a hospital. Nurses fill out forms usually because they are required by state law or for reimbursement purposes or because the Joint Commission (hospital accreditation folks) etc. tell us to. Trust me it's not anybody's favorite part of the job. We'd much rather be providing direct care to the patients. So let's be real: it's direct patient care that will get cut because we don't have the option to not do the paperwork doll. Where I work we have a one hour staff meeting a week that most people are too busy to be able to attend *now*, let alone with 2.5 less hours in a week. Also, we are open 24/7, not 9-5 so tell me when you'd like us to not meet mandatory staffing levels exactly...so we can be cited, fined and possibly closed. This plan is ridiculous. As pointed out in the Chron on Monday, "This choice uses a machete when a scalpel is required - and alienates both government workers and residents."

Posted by Jennifer B on Mar. 11, 2010 @ 10:20 am

Um. I work at a hospital. Nurses fill out forms usually because they are required by state law or for reimbursement purposes or because the Joint Commission (hospital accreditation folks) etc. tell us to. Trust me it's not anybody's favorite part of the job. We'd much rather be providing direct care to the patients. So let's be real: it's direct patient care that will get cut because we don't have the option to not do the paperwork doll. Where I work we have a one hour staff meeting a week that most people are too busy to be able to attend *now*, let alone with 2.5 less hours in a week. Also, we are open 24/7, not 9-5 so tell me when you'd like us to not meet mandatory staffing levels exactly...so we can be cited, fined and possibly closed. This plan is ridiculous. As pointed out in the Chron on Monday, "This choice uses a machete when a scalpel is required - and alienates both government workers and residents."

Posted by Jennifer B on Mar. 11, 2010 @ 10:21 am

Hey Tim,

I have an idea, just ask everyone not to break the law and we can get rid of the police.

We would need to make people 'promise' not to break the law and save a mint on that.

What about all the people that don't work because the don't want to, where would we tax them?

Posted by Tom Jones on Mar. 10, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

I work for DPH, we serve children and youth and we work hard. Our output is measured in "productivity," a way in which they keep track of our billings per week for time spent services to our clients. It is frustrating to hear people assume the public needs less help or that we are sitting around doing nothing. As it is, we are always being expected to do more than is humanly possible in a workday. Yes, there is paperwork which ought to be reduced, but we have no control over that.

It does seem the "pain" should be spread more evenly with the police department and fire department. Our work involves violence prevention by providing services to children, youth and family which include individual and family therapy, advocacy, case management, school intervention and collaboration with community-based agencies. Why cut prevention time while allowing full schedules for those who will have to incarcerate unserved youth? Our billing also provides revenue for the City; therefore, reducing our time reduces revenue for the City. Does that make sense?

It is impossible for us to complete 40 hours more work in a 37-1/2 work week. Furthermore, if workers are pushed beyond our capacities, it will result in more sick time and/or vacation time needed, which further penalizes our clients. As someone pointed out in the Supervisors' meeting yesterday, this plan is "penny-wise and pound foolish." Our children and youth deserve more. Those of us who serve them deserve better treatment, as well.

I also wonder about the amount of wasted time issuing our "pink slips", firing and rehiring us. Doesn't that amount to alot of extra paperwork and bureaucratic hour spent on processing these changes?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2010 @ 6:08 am

Guest,

The City's (and the State's) deficit problem is so bad that we are no longer debating whether to implement cuts but only how we implement cuts.

So in that context, how would you cut costs by 6% if not in this way? Would you prefer to keep 40 hours a week and lose 6% of your colleagues?

Would you take a 6% cut in pay voluntarily but still work 40 hours?

Would you allow your health and pension benefits to be re-negotiated to be more sustainable?

And again, yes it is possible that you will now only be able to help 6% less folks. But presumably you will make sure those are the 6% whose needs are relatively the most modest, thereby ensuring that the most critical 94% still get attention.

The well ran dry and there are no longer any easy, pleasant options.

Posted by Tom Foolery on Mar. 11, 2010 @ 8:10 am

$157,000 loan is what the LGBT Center is asking the city to help with.
As for the hours getting cut, sure, services will be affected and how many are being fired? The supervisors need to ask and get a real answer.

Posted by Josh on Mar. 11, 2010 @ 11:57 am

157K is still a lot of money. They should get the money only if it is clearly identified who is NOT going to get it as a result. Or what the extra source of revenue is.

Nobody is getting fired. the purpose of this is the exact opposite - to give everyone a 6% pay cut (for 6% less work, so not a cut in hourly pay) precisely so that nobody get fired. I thought that was obvious.

The Supes don't need to be involved with exactly where those cuts take place. That is an operational decision by the departmental managers of each service unit. Those managers make the same type of decisions every year depending on whether their budget is going up or down. That's their job.

Posted by Tom Foolery on Mar. 11, 2010 @ 1:00 pm