Union members said Tuesday they were blindsided by Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposal to shorten the workweek for 12,000 city employees, but he defended his proposal, explaining it as a creative way to avoid a mass of layoffs next year.
“Workers of San Francisco are quite angry,” said Damita Davis-Howard, president of SEIU Local 1021, which represents 14,000 workers. “They woke up [this] morning to discover the mayor wanted to cut salaries by 6.25 percent. There were no details and no one knew if it would be them.”
Newsom called for a meeting with labor unions Tuesday, the day after his office circulated a memo to city department heads outlining a plan to reduce workweeks from 40 hours to 37.5 hours.
Under the plan, The City would lay off workers and rehire them as part-time employees. It would generate as much as $50 million in savings as San Francisco, which employs 26,000 workers, needs to close a $522 million budget gap for the next fiscal year.
“We are proposing to keep people employed by changing the workweek to part-time status,” Newsom said. “We cannot tax our way out and we cannot borrow our way out.”
But the plan is the same budget blueprint the union rejected last year when Newsom asked them for $50 million in cuts, Davis-Howard said.
“This is a boomerang that keeps coming back,” she said.
Newsom acknowledged the budget proposal is draconian, but he said it’s the lesser of two evils.
“I think a much worse idea is thousands of layoffs,” Newsom said. “If they disagree and they have a better idea, then I’m all ears.”
The mayor must present a balanced budget to the Board of Supervisors by June 1.