Angst Over Imminent Layoffs Rippling Through Rec and Park Department

Stormtrooper on subway.jpg
They were not the droids he was looking for...
Fear and loathing is emanating from the city's Recreation and Park Department, as a high-stakes version of the telephone game has longtime employees worried their jobs will be liquidated in pending mass layoffs.

"The walls have ears," said one veteran department worker. "It's definitely going to happen -- it'll be two weeks or it'll be a month, but the pink slips will be delivered."

Yesterday, the Chronicle reported that the city is considering firing up to 10,000 city workers and re-hiring them for shorter work-weeks (hopefully, it'll work better here than in France). Yet for the past month or so, Rec and Park employees have been on pins and needles as word trickles out of layoff plans that may or may not be more dire than simply working shorter hours.

Rumors are flying fast and furious within the beleaguered department. But, limiting our interview subjects to people involved first-hand in the ongoing negotiations with management -- or those who have talked directly with those who are -- here are some of the less fanciful propositions potentially being proposed to cut into Rec and Park's multi-million dollar shortfall:

Numerous sources mentioned the possibility that recreation directors and assistant recreation supervisors -- scores of workers -- will have their positions wholesale eliminated. These employees -- many of them long-term -- would then have to re-apply for reformulated versions of their own jobs. Or, the department might lean toward hiring seasonal employees, who can work a maximum of 1,040 hours (that's about six months) and do not earn benefits.

One longtime rec director told SF Weekly that he and 25 of his colleagues were called to a Friday meeting with a union representative from the SEIU Local 1021. "The union rep said 'We know it's coming down.' They won't come out and say it verbatim, but we're losing our jobs," said the employee. "They're trying to be diplomatic but, bottom line, we're losing our jobs." Another longtime employee claimed an SEIU rep told him that management was leaning toward seasonal workers to fill those lost jobs.

SF Weekly's calls to a Rec and Park spokesman have not yet been returned -- but the chances of management revealing something substantive about delicate ongoing labor negotiations are slight. 

SEIU organizer Margot Reed confirmed that $2 million worth of salaries will be going out the door -- there's no getting around that. She also confirmed that "there will be a change in how we deliver recreation." When asked if the recreation directors and assistant supervisors will be liquidated, she answered "The model of having rec directors and rec assistant supervisors -- it's fair to say it's going to change."

Reed denied, however, that longtime city employees will be replaced with seasonal workers -- or at least that it's a dead certainty. Actually, she said, nothing is set in stone other than losing $2 million worth of personnel. Those laid off, she says, will have a chance to "compete" for "any new positions that come up" -- though the pay and benefits for those positions are unclear.

She hopes the ongoing negotiations will result in a written labor plan by the 16th. Because, at the moment, "There is no document. There isn't even something we could sunshine at this point."

Image   |   Via John Gushue

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