The word is leaking out of City Hall from all directions: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is moving swiftly to get rid of 1,000 or more of the youngest and lowest-paid city workers without a strategic plan to preserve services or get rid of the people he once called “deadwood.”
The mayor, who increasingly is showing signs of panic in the face of the budget crisis, has called department heads to a meeting Tuesday afternoon with the goal of making it clear that the target of his layoff plan are those with less than five years employment with the city.
He also is asking for a list of what public services they recommend eliminating and has drawn a line against cuts in police. It’s unlikely he will hit the Fire Department given LA’s propensity for natural disasters.
Those public safety departments account for half of all general fund spending.so the impact on other city departments, already are losing 2,763 workers to the Early Retirement Incentive Program, will be enormous.
Although the question of layoffs was raised nearly a year ago, there has been no strategic planning on how to minimize the impact on important services to the public. In fact, the City Council has repeatedly emphasized protecting functions that generate revenue instead of those that provide general public services.
The ERIP itself has been a disaster for many departments with key senior managers deciding to retire with $15,000 in cash and pensions sweetened with five years extra service credit, enhancing pensions by about 12 percent.
Those retirements have left gaping holes in the ability of some departments to operate and the random elimination of those at the bottom who actually do much of the work will compound the chaos and further degrade city services.
Union leaders are set to meet Friday with top officials and appear to be ready to fight even as many of their rank-and-file members are challenging the decisions they made on ERIP and new contracts that contained hollow promises of no layoffs and deferred pay raises.
The business community and Neighborhood Council leaders have stressed that pension reform is the critical issue since the burden of a $10.5 billion unfunded pension liability is draining the general fund and pushing the city toward bankruptcy.