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L.A. council votes to impose furloughs and layoffs while talks continue on early retirement plan

September 16, 2009 |  4:40 pm
The Los Angeles City Council voted today to move ahead with a plan to impose furloughs and layoffs on its civilian workforce, even as it called for two more days of talks with its unions to keep from having to follow through with that plan.

On a 13-0 vote, the council also declined to put an early retirement plan into effect on the grounds that it is too costly.

The council took the first step toward eliminating 926 positions and imposing 26 days of furloughs on the Coalition of L.A. City Unions in an attempt to eliminate a $405 million shortfall.

Council members said they hope to reach an agreement with the coalition before Sept. 28, when furloughs would begin to take effect.

“There’s been a lot of progress” during the closed-door talks, said Councilwoman Jan Perry who represents part of downtown Los Angeles.

Villaraigosa spokesman Matt Szabo did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in recent days, the mayor threatened to veto a decision to move ahead with the early retirement plan on the grounds that it would save too little and place too large a burden on the city’s pension system.

Early retirement would have allowed 2,400 workers to leave up to five years early with full benefits. Although it was desigend to help address a budget crisis, the city’s top financial adviser warned last week that it would only save $12 million this budget year.

Despite those warnings, the proposal has drawn support from several council members, including Richard Alarcon, Paul Koretz and Janice Hahn.

Alarcon, who represents the San Fernando Valley, described today’s vote as a place holder, one that will buy time as the city’s negotiating committee tries to develop a new early retirement plan that is more financially viable. The vote “is a safety net, in the event that we aren’t able to come up with an agreement,” Alarcon said.

Union leaders said they will take similar steps, preparing a legal challenge against the city even as they continue negotiations. But they were upbeat after today’s vote, praising the council for searching for a new agreement.

“We’re finding common ground, and we hope to build on that common ground,” said Victor Gordo, secretary treasurer of Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 777.

-- David Zahniser and Phil Willon at L.A. City Hall