City to Layoff 125 Employees on Friday

Posted by Bianca Phillips on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 12:04 PM

Friday may be the last day at work for 125 city employees from nearly all divisions of city government, according to a memo from city human resources director Quinton Robinson.

"The bulk of the [laid-off] employees will get notice tomorrow," said chief administrative officer George Little. "Some have bumping and retreating rights, and they could stay on past Friday."

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Bumping is an employee's right of assignment to a position occupied by another employee in a lower position, and retreating happens when an employee takes over a position identical to one previously held that may be held by a lower-ranking employee.

The layoffs, estimated to save the city $9.9 million, are one of several budget-cutting measures approved by the Memphis City Council last week. City employees will also see a 4.6 percent pay reduction beginning Friday. The reduction is being instituted as an alternative to the previously approved furlough strategy of eliminating holiday pay for city employees. The 4.6 percent reduction is equivalent to 12 paid holidays.

"In the latter part of the year, when you're off two days for Thanksgiving and three days for Christmas, it's hard to lose 20 to 30 percent of your paycheck," Little said. "This is an effort to smooth out the pay reduction."

When the city begins to accrue savings from the pay cuts, Little said they'll eventually reduce the amount of the pay reduction. The furlough pay reduction is expected to save the city $16.7 million.

Death benefits paid to families of retired city workers were also eliminated. In his memo, Robinson said the city could no longer afford the $5,000 payment made upon a retired employee's death.

"The city is, however, working to provide an optional, low-cost death benefit that employees may purchase," Robinson's letter stated.

The city will eliminate 248 vacant positions in order to save another $9 million. Those include a traffic crash investigator, secretaries from several divisions, a code enforcement officer, a fire department lieutenant, a carpenter, a painter, and other positions from across city divisions.

Little said a thorough analysis was done in each division to determine whether or not the vacant positions were needed. Some positions had not been filled due to a hiring freeze that has been in place since January of this year.

"For example, we looked at some vacant mechanics positions in General Services, and we found that it would be more cost-effective to retain those positions than having to send our cars out for repair," Little said.

"In regard to other positions, if we were able to live without them being filled for an extended period of time, we have to question the need for them," Little said.

Comments (20)

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The Administration is being less than truthful here....

Last night, Memphis Mayor AC Wharton expressed that he felt the pain of the many lower paid city workers who are NOW being asked to accept a 4.6% cut in their salaries in the coming year.

The Mayor explains that these cuts will be done in lieu of the 12 holiday furlough passed by the Memphis City Council as a sort of humanitarian gesture to avoid hurting worker families during the holiday season.


http://www.wreg.com/news/wreg-salary-cuts-…

There's just one problem with this story.....it's all spin. Here is the truth...
Back on Jun 21st, the Mayor presented his revised budget to the Members of the Memphis City Council...among other things was a vote to furlough 12 holidays. At the time City Council veteran Joe Brown voiced concerns throughout this affair that the vote and action to do so was improper and illegal as those holiday's were protected by ordinance. In fact here is said ordinance right here...

http://library.municode.com/HTML/16109/lev…

Councilman Brown informed the Mayor and the other members of the Council of his doubts about the legality of such a motion..but was ignored and his questions brushed aside...and that is tragic, because now what we have is yet another serious miscalculation made in needless haste by our elected officials..and once again an outright refusal by anyone to admit such mistakes...to the point of being untruthful.

Saddest of all is now we have yet another manufactured crisis that again seeks to cover the carelessness of elected officials on the back and the pocketbooks of lower paid city workers...none of the top earners will be receiving these cuts...no...no...no... salary cuts are for the little people I suppose.

Now..in the coming days you'll hear alot of indignation from elected officials about how "unreasonable" the public sector unions are being...but let's be serious for a moment...
The Unions all negotiated with the administration back in March and April in good faith...those negotiations are done...now in the Memorandum of Understanding between the city and those unions there is a procedure for situations of fiscal emergency..so that these things can be renegotiated in times of fiscal hardship. The problem is..that procedure requires the city to open up their books to the unions to prove such hardship is real......and the Administration does not want to do that...why?...I don't know and won't speculate..but it really does not matter why.

More to the point...all this bluster about "coming to the table"...is just a ploy to get the Unions to concede to a process outside of their Memorandum of Understanding..thus automatically putting them in a weaker bargaining position.

Alot of Council members are lawyers as are members of the administration...and none of them would ever advise their clients to negotiate outside of a contract or MOU....NEVER....but that exactly what the Unions are being asked to do here....and the media is allowing this to go on with ZERO scrutiny.
You see what really matters here are two simple questions....IS THE CITY ACTING IN GOOD FAITH WITH IT'S WORKERS?....and....just how many other mistakes have happened and been covered up?

I do so hope that as many of you as possible will join us at City Hall, Tuesday July 5th at 3:30pm as we watch the spin continue.

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Posted by Brad Watkins on 06/30/2011 at 1:32 PM

$9.9 million รท 125 = $79,200 (the average salary of the "firees"). That's pretty high, and must mean some bigwigs (relatively speaking) were among those canned. Do we know whether, for example, some dead wood (like, say, Joe Lee over at City Parks) was jettisoned in this purge, or others in the high-wage, low-value category?

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Posted by M_Awesomeberg on 06/30/2011 at 2:03 PM

.....and while we are on the subject...how does eliminating vacant positions save 9 mil?...it's not like the city was paying nonexistent workers?...Now certain departments have staffing quotas which will be reduced..but since the budget is "balanced' wouldn't that mean that whatever savings were incurred by not filling said positions in the past year "s" has already been spent?

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Posted by Brad Watkins on 06/30/2011 at 2:30 PM

If this were a normal city, the Mayor would have a difficult time getting re-elected under these conditions, making these errors. However, who's out there that could beat him? Harvey? Whalum? Nope. Anyone else planning to step up? Anyone?

...crickets....

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Posted by LeftWingCracker on 06/30/2011 at 5:46 PM

Mayor Wharton's "illegal" 4.6% reduction in pay for workers in some cases may violate the City's LIVING WAGE. Several lower paid clerks and in some cases secretaries in various departments and potentially workers in park services may now make a salary so low that those full time workers would now qualify to receive federal assistance such as welfare and food stamps. Is this the ONE MEMPHIS we were promised?

...What is especially interesting is that there are now reports coming in from workers who were already improperly being paid BELOW this rate already.

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Posted by Brad Watkins on 06/30/2011 at 5:54 PM

Brad-
Get a job...

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Posted by barf on 06/30/2011 at 8:12 PM

Got one "barf" and a real grown up name too. Fortunately it's not for for the city of Memphis....

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Posted by Brad Watkins on 06/30/2011 at 11:52 PM

Brad, keep up the good work and don't let the barf get you down. The pursuit of Justice is the greatest job on Earth. Though it rarely pays well, it returns so much more in loving joy, accomplishment and personal fulfillment. I've never figured out why career councilors don't mention it more often.

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Posted by sbanbury on 07/01/2011 at 8:19 AM

Actually Chris, I'm glad you brought that up and appreciate you asking. As that has been a meme that has often been repeated by our leaders without any real scrutiny. Memphis' has a revenue problem....which in turn leads to a spending problem...but only because our leaders ignore the realities and context of our problems.

Politicians when campaigning like to speak of issues as if they are separate things...like education or crime...or poverty..or blight...as if these things are not connected. So in budget season...legislators get out their calculators and make cuts without any thought of how cuts in one area will have an impact on other areas.
Let me explain..

From Aug 2004-2009 there were 933 fires in vacants within the City of Memphis. 181 of those fires were in homes in the process of or just recently foreclosed within that window. Out of those 99 fires in foreclosed homes took place within the first 12 months...and 68 of those fires took place before within the first 6 months.

The 933 fires in vacants alone cost the city 16.3 million dollars in MFD operations cost....this does not include the post fire municipal costs of demolition and after demolition cutting the grass.

Now a forward thinking person would realize that the best way to lower MFD costs is to not cut resources..but to take intelligent actions to prevent the fires in the first place. In other words we are trying to use the fire dept to correct... gross incompetence and mismanagement by Community Enhancement and failing horribly at it. The leadership of the city does not seem to understand or care to understand how the depts they oversee and fund operate, and therefore cuts are made that are only stopgaps in our fiscal process.

We still have alot of foreclosed properties and we have many more that are in foreclosure limbo. Thus we literally have hundreds to potentially thousands of properties that no one legally claims to own. We have 10k vacants and over 13k vacant lots.
These vacants drive up costs in fire and in demo at the same time each fire reduces the property value of surrounding homes by 10%...this is coupled with the reduction of value of surrounding properties due to proximity to a foreclosed home in the first place.So a DECLINE in population CAN cause expenditures to increase...while at the same time REDUCES revenue as property taxes are 43% of our revenue....just because folks move away does not mean they take their homes,roads,schools etc..with them..we as a City still have to deal with the fallout. This plays a role and impacts other areas...like, Schools, CODE, the Health Dept... Public Works...the MED...and on and on.

If we as a city want to be serious about reducing costs we can do that by spending money in the right places instead of poorly thought out cuts that reveal a basic lack of understanding in how our city's issues are interconnected. It's not what you spend..it's what you spend it on.

Finally, our high rate of vacant fires once mapped has a strong correlation to vacants that are used as squats by those who are homeless. As you might have guessed these fires increase in the cold winter months where unsheltered individual...s might set a fire as a means of staying warm. In fact just a few months ago a man who was homeless was horribly covered in burns from such a fire. The medical costs in the tens of thousands to help this man are passed on the Shelby County while MFD put out the fire and rescued him at an average cost of $16.500...the EMS ambulance that took him to the Med cost the city at least $700....So we are looking at potentially anywhere from 27-37k.in taxpayer costs...when we could have provided shelter and housing for this man for pennies on the dollar....to say nothing of the moral imperative involved...

This is just one case in point...but i think you see where i am going here. My point is our leaders knee jerk reactions to fiscal problems and the desire for simplistic solutions to issues of complexity will only led to more tax hikes...more lay off and more pay cuts in the coming years....a downward spiral...that does not have to happen.


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Posted by Brad Watkins on 07/01/2011 at 10:51 AM

And don't even get me started on our broken system of handing out PILOTS like candy or our improper misuse of TIF's.

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Posted by Brad Watkins on 07/01/2011 at 11:02 AM

Was there an answer to Chris' question in there somewhere?

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Posted by cdel on 07/01/2011 at 11:45 AM

Yes..a pretty clear one. The Mayor and members of the Council are trying to herd people into the perception that there are no other options and that nothing else could be done...to deflect any public scrutiny of how we really got here and any public discussion of the wider implications and causes... as i demonstrated there are plenty of ways that the city could have/can reduce spending in intelligent ways...and actually improve overall quality of life. But...none of those options were ever looked into in any serious way over the past four years....because those are complex and don't make good election year copy. Not like say cutting school funding,unsustainable tax breaks..or demonizing workers...that's easy to do..and easy to sell.

So we have this stream of manufactured crisis that all muddy the public discourse into blaming the workers for the lack of forethought on part of our leaders. It's not like nobody saw our shortfall coming...and it's not like the looming issue of school funding just dropped out of the sky...but at the 11th hour to suddenly pull poorly thought out..and possibly illegal "solutions" out of the hat does nothing but ensure we will all be having the same arguments next year....and on and on until our leadership decides to get their hands dirty and provide the real reforms needed to our systems. Vacants will still be there...fires will still burn....none of the causes of our problems are actually being addressed here. Just cuts and taxes....

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Posted by Brad Watkins on 07/01/2011 at 12:01 PM

Mr. Watkins: I am conflicted here. On the one hand, I am a lifelong supporter of unions (a one-time Teamster) and believe that public employees are getting a raw deal all over the country with the abolition of collective bargaining, but on the other hand, I'm a taxpayer in a city that disproportionally, and unfairly, relies on an onerous level of property taxes to fund its operations (aren't taxpayers entitled to justice too, Scott?).

I've heard it said that Memphis has more public employees than it needs for a city its size--something over 7,200--more than other cities its size, and larger, have. As we all know, patronage runs rampant in this city and manifests itself in the employment and appointment of friends, relatives and other cronies of the people in power to occasionally cushy city positions. There's a lot of featherbedding going on here, and a lot of folks who think their city jobs are a sinecure.

Given those circumstances, and the alternative to downsizing being an increase in our already oppressive property taxes, I'm afraid I have to come down on the side of downsizing. I suspect that if Memphis subjected itself to a zero-based budgeting exercise, far more than the 125 pink slips and relatively modest reduction in pay would be justified, so I think that rather than being exercised about the number of people who are losing their jobs and taking reductions in pay, you ought to consider being glad that number isn't higher.

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Posted by M_Awesomeberg on 07/01/2011 at 12:18 PM

I appreciate Chris's reasoned tone; in the crumbling state of things today, blustery hand-waving so often replaces a level headed discussion of facts.

Spending always out-paces inflation in a recession (and yes, with nearly 10% unemployment nationally, we are still in recession). Housing and manufactured goods prices are down (so core inflation is too), while the number of people requiring services is way up. Services like Medicare and unemployment insurance at the state and national level, but at the municipal level its services like fire and public works who clean up a growing number of abandoned properties and blighted-house fires, and police as more and more homeless folks pick jail over a night on the street. The trend doesn't turn around by cutting services, it gets worse; the problem isn't spending, it's the economy.

What IS the role of spending in a recession? There is a wealth of historical examples, including the U.S. in the 30's and the Asian financial crisis in the 90's, that show how fiscal hawkishness is anethma to recovery. In a weak precarious recovery, let alone in an ongoing recession (which is really the current situation) cutting the jobs and services that working people depend upon gouges consumer spending and tips even more folks over the edge into drowning debt, bankruptcy, even homelessness. Deficit spending isn't the bogyman the right wants us to think; the only negative impact it can have is raising interest rates, and that is far outweighed by the upward economic pull of increased employment if deficit-spending is used to put people back to work at good jobs, and provide adequate public services to free up discretionary consumer dollars. The most efficient bang for our buck is direct employment in divisions the provide public services. This can turn around the local economy, increase the quality of life of the city, and attract more folks to Memphis.

Yeah, there's an imbalance between revenue and spending, but who does cutting spending hurt, and who does not raising revenue benefit? A good public sanitation service, for instance, provides jobs as wells as service to everyone, include low-wage communities still reeling from the onset of the recession, who cannot afford fulls service from a private contractor. At the same time look at Multi-National corporations, like FedEx, IP, Krooger, Autozone, ServiceMaster and many others who are making profit hand over fist. The corporations are making money of the mack of Memphis, paying folks dirt wages, exploiting nearly non-existent environment protections, all the while they pay little or no taxes. Really, FedEx for instance, has been allowed to indefinitely extended its property tax abatement for over 30 years. Another example currently before city council is a proposed $45 million tax abatement for Kruger paper company in North Memphis, to make a measly 100 jobs with no claw-back provision. That same amount of money could be used to make twice as many jobs in direct employment and increase the city quality of life rather than decrease it with more pollution. The city isn't out of money, it give huge welfare tax breaks to corporations who don't pay their fare share, and if that weren't enough, it spends lavishly with its development projects to further subsidize big companies.

Tennessee and Memphis has some of the most regressive taxation in the country, which has some of the most regressive taxation of the industrialized west. Right now our national tax rates are lower than they have been in 100 years, and the wealthiest 400 people own as much as the poorest 150 million people combined, the wealth gap is bigger than it has ever been. The same is true in Memphis, the wealth gap is enormous, hundreds of thousands of people are hemmed in all around by poverty, poor services, and joblessness; in the midst of it all we face a government that toadies to rich elites, refusing to uphold its first and only responsibility, to serve the people.

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Posted by Jeffrey Lichtenstein on 07/01/2011 at 12:27 PM

Those are fair point..however

"As we all know, patronage runs rampant in this city and manifests itself in the employment and appointment of friends, relatives and other cronies of the people in power to occasionally cushy city positions. There's a lot of featherbedding going on here, and a lot of folks who think their city jobs are a sinecure."

Do you honestly think those are the folks being fired? If we all accept that there is a patronage system with cronyism...which i agree there is...why would anyone imagine that these would be the people let go?

As for the number of employees vs other cities...i have repeatedly asked the administration about just that. Population wise Memphis is top 20...however geographic wise...Memphis is MUCH larger...and i wonder if those numbers are a real apples to apples comparison. The administration says...they will get back to me on that.

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Posted by Brad Watkins on 07/01/2011 at 12:29 PM

@Awesomeberg
I don't want my taxes to go up either. I just refuse accept that the quality services that are crucial to my city, and the jobs of my friends, are going to be thrown away because big business wants even more profits. There are a small handful of EXTREMELY wealthy people who make decisions for these companies, companies that sit on Memphis land, benefit from a social wage paid by Memphis to its residents (subsidizing what the need to pay their workers), exploit Memphians and our natural environment on the cheep, and benefit from Memphis geography; AND YET don't pay their fair share of taxes. I'm a taxpayer, why should I have to pay if the big businesses who are doing a hell of a lot better than I am are given a free pass. This is the revenue problem: dog-eat-dog competition for working people and socialism for the rich.

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Posted by Jeffrey Lichtenstein on 07/01/2011 at 12:47 PM

@M_Awesomeberg Just for the record.....i had previously never said anything about the firings..and have been speaking more to the lies surrounding the pay cuts and other issues.
Tho...i do not trust or like how the administration handled those terminations either...I never said that we can't let anyone go. If you can find where i did..please refresh my memory.
I do contend that there has been and continues to be a serious lack of transparency in this entire process.

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Posted by Brad Watkins on 07/01/2011 at 12:53 PM

"Politicians when campaigning like to speak of issues as if they are separate things...like education or crime...or poverty..or blight...as if these things are not connected. "

Brad, that's why I run around speaking in rhythmic streams of consciousness ;-)

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Posted by sbanbury on 07/01/2011 at 1:47 PM

". . . on the other hand, I'm a taxpayer in a city that disproportionally, and unfairly, relies on an onerous level of property taxes to fund its operations (aren't taxpayers entitled to justice too, Scott?). "

Marty, you know very well that the reason you are asked to pay such "onerous" taxes is that the lily livered, chicken shits that ran away from Memphis have been pulling the puppet strings of city government from afar to make you and I subsidize their flight to browner fields elsewhere.

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Posted by sbanbury on 07/01/2011 at 1:50 PM

Attaboy, Brad, having seen your take via email, I had been wondering if you would offer it here. You sho' have!

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Posted by JB on 07/01/2011 at 2:37 PM
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