For the city’s more than 130,000 unionized civilian workers, job insecurity may be a mere 30 days away. June 30 marks the expiration date of the 3-year-old contract clause that gave many city workers blanket protection from layoffs.
Workers from administrative and clerical employees to social workers have benefited from the clause; Giuliani’s workforce reductions have been made through attrition and early retirement offers, but not layoffs.
The first casualties of the change are 1,000 workers at the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) some of whom will be without jobs July 1.
District Council 37, which represents 120,000 city workers in various agencies, has opened informal talks with the city to assure that no additional workers will be laid off. “There are concerns [about layoffs] and we’re talking with the city,” Stanley Hill, executive director of DC 37, told City Limits. Hill’s decision to endorse Giuliani last year drew sharp criticism from many in his own union.
“These are not negotiations,” he added. “We’ve opened up a dialogue about job security and the crisis at DHS.”
The no-layoff clause, which does not cover hospital workers, is part of the 5-year contract negotiated in 1995 by DC 37 and smaller city workers unions, including local 1180 of the Communication Workers of America. Without the clause it would have been hard to convince the rank-and-file to approve the 1995 contract, which contained no pay raises, union leaders say.
June 30 also spells the end of another provision that obligated the city to relocate and retrain DHS workers to other city jobs if they were ever laid off. These expirations allow the city to go ahead with the announced privatization plan for the agency starting in July. Hill says “there’s no pattern” in the recent announcement of 600 job cuts at Harlem hospital and the DHS reductions. Yet if Hill believes that workers shouldn’t be scared of mass cutbacks, other union officials aren’t quite so optimistic. “The fear [of layoffs] has always been there,” said Faye Moore, head of grievances at the Social Services Employees Union. Still, a definitive strategy for pre-empting any future layoffs is still on the drawing board. “We are looking for ways to counter the mayor’s lie that city workers don’t contribute to the quality of life in the city,” said a union official, who requested anonymity. “City workers provide vital services, you just can’t toss them out and not think that services won’t be affected.”
Said one soon-to-be-laid-off DHS worker: “Between the hospital workers and us, the taxi drivers and those poor vendors, it’s going to be a hot time in the old town this summer.