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Would you take a pay cut to save your co-workers' jobs?

February 25, 2010 | 10:43 am

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If you had the option, would you give up 10% of your salary in return for saving the jobs of your co-workers? Or would you rather take a couple of unpaid furlough days a month? Or would it be better just to lay off 10% of the workforce?

In trying to close a budget gap, Los Angeles city officials are saying the proposed 4,000 layoffs could be avoided if all city employees took that cut, in which someone making $50,000 would see a drop to $45,000 -- no insignificant amount. Some people have also advocated furloughs as a way of avoiding either option, although the City Council worries about potential legal issues with that route.

Union officials are naturally suspicious, and unconvinced that any of this is necessary. But they're living in a dream world, if my conversation with Recreation and Parks director Jon Mukri is any indication.

Mukri told me that he has 1,700 full-time employees, down from the 2,100 the department had in 2004, with about 300 more job losses in the works. Part-time positions have been cut in half over that six-year stretch, Mukri said. Service cuts, he added, have only just begun.

"We probably will see fewer pools open" this summer, he said, and recreation centers now open seven days a week might be open only "five days a week or even four."

Mukri said he has few options, now that he's being required by the city to pay millions in utility costs and other indirect expenses out of his own budget.

Based on numbers he's seen, Mukri said, if every single city employee agreed to a 10% pay cut, the budget could be balanced without service or job cuts. It would be great PR for the unions too, Mukri suggested.

Let us know what you think about what’s the best option. In particular, we'd like to hear from union members.

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Swimmers crowd the pool at Harvard Recreation Center in South L.A. in July. Such opportunities might be rarer this summer because of cuts in the city's parks and recreation department.

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