Chandler layoff proposal favors seniority - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Chandler layoff proposal favors seniority

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Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 8:06 pm | Updated: 2:29 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Chandler's proposed layoff plans would allow city employees whose positions are eliminated to "bump" other employees with lesser seniority out of a job.

That means employees hired in 2007 and 2008 are the most likely to be bumped out of employment, Debbie Stapleton, the city's human resources director, told the City Council Monday. The council could approve what's being called the "involuntary severance program" when it meets again Thursday.

If Chandler officials decide to terminate an estimated 29 city employees in early summer to help offset next year's gaping budget deficit, those laid off could receive a lump sum equal to three months pay and would be allowed to continue on the city's health insurance plan for up to six months.

Stapleton said each laid off employee could receive a lump sum payment of between $15,000 and $20,000.

The potential layoffs would start a cascade, wherein an employee who has been with the city a long time can bump another employee with less seniority out of his or her position, provided it's generally the same type of work, she said. Those bumped employees would, in turn, put someone even more junior out of a job, until those with the least seniority are left out in the cold.

Dave Bigos, assistant to the mayor and City Council, said officials won't know exactly how many layoffs will be needed, if any, until late May, when the number of employees who accept voluntary separation or early retirement packages becomes clear.

"That 29 is probably a pretty fluid number," Bigos said.

Chandler officials are projecting a $21.5 million budget shortfall in fiscal year 2009-10, but state law requires the city to have a balanced budget. City officials have said eliminating a total of 90 positions - including buyouts, the elimination of up to 51 vacant positions, and the possible layoffs - would save the city about $12 million a year.

This month, the City Council approved two buyout packages aimed at encouraging up to 40 Chandler city workers to quit because of the budget woes. If, as the city expects, 30 employees accept early retirement and another 10 take voluntary separation packages, it could save $3.4 million a year, beginning next fiscal year, officials have said.

Chandler would give employees who quit voluntarily five months of separation pay and allow them to continue on the city's health insurance plan for a year. Employees who choose early retirement would get a similar package. The buyout packages would cost the city about $5 million this fiscal year.

Other proposals to help balance the budget include saving $4.5 million by eliminating such items as cost of living increases, merit increases and pay raises for city employees.

Another $1.7 million could be saved by cutting such things as tuition reimbursement, asking employees to reduce their work hours voluntarily, and postponing the replacement of city computers, officials have said.

The City Council's budget hearings are slated to begin in May, with adoption of next year's budget expected in June.

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