So, Would City Unions Really Cut Back Hours to Stave Off Layoffs Like Obama Wants? This Union Head Says Yes

I.jpgTo say San Francisco is enthralled with our new president is putting it a bit mildly. If, during his inaugural address yesterday, he'd have instructed us to shout "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" out the window -- well, skip to three minutes, 16 seconds here, and you'll see what the city would have looked like yesterday. 

So, yesterday President Obama mentioned this:

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours.

City political consultant David Latterman was skeptical about "how some of the rhetoric from this speech and this campaign will trickle down to real people and situations like we have in San Francisco." Something to ponder: Will the notion of cutting back hours or giving back hard-fought concessions be a possibility with the city's unions?

You'd think this would be an automatic no. But, according to the president of San Francisco's International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, the answer is yes.

Lois Scott is a longtime city planner and president of the Local 21. She said her colleagues would welcome a reduction in hours rather than see their junior colleagues go -- but claimed the city doesn't have a coherent plan to allow this.

"We've suggested the city structure a program that makes it easier to" reduce workers' hours in order to stave off layoffs, she said. "But many departments that use layoffs politically are opposed."

Scott said many of her union colleagues would voluntarily reduce their hours (and, by extension, pay) if a plan could be engineered in which they didn't risk their health and retirement benefits. While she says city officials have told her this isn't possible, it does seem to be possible in San Jose. And she says that in her labor negotiations with Steve Kawa, the mayor's chief of staff, he has always insisted that layoffs cannot be taken off the table -- no matter what.

"Philosophically and politically, it seems like they'd like to remove people rather than have the same number of people with reduced hours," she said.

Calls to Kawa for this story were not immediately returned.

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