Fired municipal workers say S.F. hired cheap replacements

Nobody likes being laid off, but 11 former city workers say they lost their jobs only so The City could rehire workers at half their pay, an allegation city officials deny.

Eleven former Department of Public Works employees announced Monday morning that they are holding a weeklong hunger strike on the steps of City Hall demanding their jobs back, which they lost two years ago.

In 2004, the Department of Public Works laid off 40 general laborers, those who perform such duties as street sweeping and litter pickup. The 11 workers were “provisional workers,” meaning they are considered temporary workers and not afforded the same labor protections as permanent workers.

Labor attorney Renee Saucedo, who represents the 11 workers, alleges that the layoffs occurred to make way for a Department of Public Works program that hires people from low-income neighborhoods and pays them about half the salary of general laborers.

“No, that’s not the case,” said Christine Falvey, DPW spokeswoman. Falvey said the layoffs in 2004 were the result of budget cuts. A total of 614 city employees were laid off in 2004 by a number of city departments due to budget cuts.

Falvey praised the DPW program that hires from low-income neighborhoods, saying it provides on-the-job training for people to move on to either general labor jobs with DPW or jobs in the private sector.

Following an aggressive campaign against the layoffs, 29 of the workers were rehired, according to Saucedo. Saucedo said she suspects the 11 were not rehired as retaliation, since these former city workers were the most vocal against the 2004 layoffs.

Falvey, however, said the Board of Supervisors allocated money for the 2004-05 fiscal year to hire more general labor workers, and everyone was given an equal opportunity to apply for those jobs.

“They’re really not going to stop until everyone one of them has been put back to work,” Saucedo said.

Mike Wilson, a former DPW worker, said that since he was laid off he no longer receives any benefits and is struggling to get by. When he was employed with The City, Wilson was earning $24 an hour with benefits. “I need the wages to support myself in The City. I’m a San Francisco native. I’ve been here 46 years,” Wilson said, adding, “You can’t just close the door on us.”

jsabatini@examiner.com

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