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Villaraigosa to unions: Share budget pain, one way or another

April 6, 2009 |  1:54 pm

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today said unions representing city workers would need to make major concessions to avoid widespread layoffs, including possibly deferring cost-of-living increases, cutting work hours and paying more for retirement benefits.

The mayor told reporters that the city is expected to face a $530-million shortfall in the 2009-10 budget year, and that 2,800 workers would be laid off unless the unions agree to "shared sacrifice and shared responsibility." The mayor’s office is currently negotiating with the Coalition of L.A. City Unions and other bargaining units on ideas to cut costs.

The unions have the power to reject any measure to cut pay or eliminate raises, since both are locked in by contract. Villaraigosa has the authority to lay off city workers, however.

Villaraigosa’s announcement -- which included a videotaped message to employees -- offers the first glimpse into his upcoming budget proposal, scheduled to be submitted to the City Council on April 20. The mayor said his budget would include provisions for new public-private partnerships that could raise hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as cuts to programs.
Even with that cost-cutting and additional revenue, the city still would be approximately $300 million short, he said. Villaraigosa said the “menu of options" he proposed to workers, including forgoing pay increases, could dramatically decrease the number of layoffs required to balance L.A.’s budget. He already has instructed the city’s personnel department to be prepared to lay off 400 workers.
Union officials are pushing for an early retirement program. The mayor said that’s on the table as well.
But  he said his main goal was to cut costs without cutting services. A mass exodus of workers nearing retirement would likely affect city services.

-- Phil Willon