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."
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.