Newsom's plan means service cuts

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.  

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