San Francisco city workers home on furlough for holidays

Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The holidays will be a quieter place around City Hall, with many workers taking furlough days between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Residents, however, can still expect street sweeping, tree trimming and graffiti removal during the holiday season despite the fact that government will be operating with limited staffing.

As part of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s budget deal this year, city workers have been taking forced days off since July 1 when the new fiscal year began. However, many of the citywide furloughs are being planned for the Christmas
holidays.

“All essential city functions will be available,” Newsom’s spokesman Tony Winnicker said. “In contrast to the state’s approach, where government is periodically shut down entirely, Newsom has asked every department to minimize the impact to the public from furlough days.”

The furlough days are part of the concessions made to help close a more than $400 million budget deficit last year. Newsom had initially proposed shorter workweeks, but unions threatened to sue if the mayor went though with his plan.

After several months of negotiations, city labor unions and the mayor agreed in April to a budget deal with furloughs as the centerpiece.

Unions agreed to 12 unpaid days off per year over the next two years, which is equivalent to a 4.62 percent wage cut. In exchange, Newsom agreed to shed millions of dollars in city contracts as well as closure of nonessential services between Christmas and New Year’s, according to the Mayor’s Office. All of this would help save $200 million over the next two years, Winnicker said.

Increasing labor costs will continue to put a financial strain on the city and county budget. Newsom’s budget director Greg Wagner estimated that next year San Francisco will face another multimillion-dollar budget shortfall, with labor health care costs and pensions alone will adding $100 million to the problem.

Newsom requested that all departments make a 20 percent cut to their budgets by February, of which 10 percent would be a contingency. But Newsom has indicated he will use the 2.5 percent cut proposals to make budget cuts before he leaves office in January to assume his statewide post as lieutenant governor.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

 

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