City employees reinstated after complaints

Five city employees who were told last week that they would be laid off have been temporarily reinstated after local union leaders complained to Mayor John DeStefano Jr. about the abruptness of the firings.

The workers, who each had more than 10 years of experience, were employed by the Livable City Initiative and the Public Works Department. While the firings were postponed — they were originally supposed to be effective last Friday — five workers will still eventually be laid off in order to compensate for decreased federal funding, mayoral spokesman Derek Slap said.

In a letter sent to all city aldermen by the five affected workers, complaints were lodged against the Mayor’s Office for the short notice, the fact that the positions are not funded through the end of June and the existence, they assert, of vacant positions and new employees elsewhere in their departments.

Slap said the age and gender of the workers — who are all women over 40 — “has nothing to do with it,” and that the decision as to who to fire was made by department heads in order to ensure maximum efficiency within the departments. He said the larger issue is the Bush Administration’s decreasing willingness to fund block grants, which pay for the Livable City Initiative.

“The city is getting less and less money for the grant and having to pay the positions more,” Slap said. “Something’s got to give, unfortunately, so that’s the city’s recommendation: Eliminate these positions.”

The affected employees also asked the Board of Aldermen to investigate the firings and to oppose reallocation of Community Development Committee Block Grant funds.

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