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546 city workers get layoff notices, but many will be rehired, paid less

Oct 1 2009 - 12:57pm

To help close the city's $438 budget gap, layoff notices were sent to 546 health and clerical workers.

But that doesn't mean the city's payroll will shrink by 546 jobs come mid-November.

In a bit of accounting legerdemain, the Health Department is intending to rehire many of the 289 certified nursing assistants who received pink slips by reclassifying them "patient care assistants" to do the same work as before but paying them 20 percent less. The department is even adding three additional full-time positions.

The Public Press first reported on this story two weeks ago, but the exact number of layoff notices was not yet known.

The Department of Human Resources says it still doesn't yet know how many workers will be rehired. The city estimates it will save $8 million from layoffs and pay cuts.

Initially, the city planned to issue 603 layoff notices but restored funding for 84 full-time positions. Overall — at least for now — more than 250 employees, mostly clerical workers, will be out of work Nov. 16.

The Service Employees International Union agreed to forgo pay for 10 federal holidays over 18 months, saving the city $16 million. As part of this concession, the city agreed not to lay off any union members until after Nov. 16. The city must give 60 days’ notice of layoffs, so pink slips went out in mid-September.


The union is involved in the rejiggering to save its members' jobs, but it's accusing Mayor Gavin Newsom of reneging on a deal to place a revenue measure on the November ballot to pony up money to save all the positions.

Union officials say the layoffs hit minority women the hardest.


"As usual, the city is going after the low end of the work force,” said Ruben Garcia, an organizer with SEIU Local 1021. “This pay cut will be devastating for a lot of people."


The city contends the union is embellishing the impact of the cuts.


"Please keep in mind that come Nov. 16, 2009, there will not be 546 people without jobs,” Mary Hao, a spokesperson for the Department of Human Resources wrote in an e-mail.
“Laguna Honda Hospital and San Francisco General Hospital will continue to utilize nursing assistants to perform restorative care and education, and both hospitals will utilize patient care assistants to perform routine duties under the direct supervision of licensed nurses,” Hao wrote.
Many of the employees who received pink slips will be reclassified or reinstated into a position they held before, Hao said. The city will not know for a few weeks how many employees – or which ones – will be reinstated.

While it is still unclear how the positions will differ, the union says the jobs will be essentially the same.


Newsom did not respond to requests for comment on this article. He did, however, address the layoffs during a press conference Tuesday.


In a brief comment, Newsom said it was “unfortunate” that the SEIU was "misleading" the public but did not elaborate further. Garcia rebuked the mayor’s claim, saying he was the one who had misled the union.


The mayor was then asked if he had seen the new NBC television show “Trauma,” a dramatic portrayal of paramedics in San Francisco.


The mayor spent several minutes discussing the show and the “spotlight” it shines on the city.