Just two days after announcing his plan to help pull the city out of its current financial crisis, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing told Local 4's Devin Scillian that 1,000 positions would be eliminated by Feb. 25, 2012. The layoff notices will go out to employees the week of Jan. 21.
Bing broke the news during the taping of Local 4's "Flashpoint."
Bing: "It is not a thing that you like to do but it is necessary. There is no way around it. If we don’t get the union to come to the table and open the talks up about reform for health care, reform for pension and changing of work rules – I don’t care who comes here. It won’t change anything. The last area that I want to lay off would be public safety."
Devin: "You made it sound like the other night we wouldn’t be seeing layoffs from there."
Bing: "No. No. Those would be the last ones I would touch because I think that’s the most important service that we deliver to our citizens. We understand that with homicide where it is in our city my primary responsibility is the safety of our citizens."
Devin: "Let’s talk about the union situation. This is different thank coming to the end of a contract and negotiating a new one. You’re asking the unions to open a contract that has already been enacted. There’s 2 signatory lines on a contract - this is the deal that union has but the city signed off on it, too. Aren’t we obligated to live up to what we told them we would do for them."
Bing: "It would allow that obligation to take the city under. What sense does that make? Than we’ve got nobody with a job, nobody with a paycheck. It makes no sense to me. We all need to participate in the pain. I’m not here to demonize the union at all, but if they’re not willing to open up and play a role here then they take the city down. We need to understand that we as workers in the city of Detroit , we work for the citizens. This is not a job bank that you’re guaranteed."
The layoffs, representing nine percent of the city's 11,000 employees, are expected to save approximately $14 million this fiscal year. The city of Detroit faces a $45 million cash shortfall by the end of its fiscal year in June 2012 without immediate action. An additional 2,000 positions have been eliminated since the mayor took office in 2009.
In addition, Bing has ordered an immediate hiring freeze for all civil service positions. In order to comply with a Nov. 4, 2011 court order, the hiring freeze will not apply to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
In addition to workforce reductions, Bing has outlined the concessions necessary to stem the city’s cash shortage, return the city to fiscal stability in the long-term, and prevent an emergency manager from running the City.
Those steps include approximately $40 million in savings from:
Elimination of furlough days, with implementation of a 10 percent across the board wage reduction for all city employees - including public safety, for those employees whose pay hasn't already been cut by 10 percent at the start of this fiscal year.
Changes to existing healthcare coverage including a 10 percent increase in employee contributions to their coverage.
Pension reforms that will make the city more competitive with other municipal plans including reducing excess payouts from the system.
Reform to work rules that will reduce overtime costs and streamline operations.
During Wednesday's speech, Bing said the city government needs to work within a budget that must be grown by cutting wages, staff and by concessions from city unions.
Detroit Power and Light are among the services facing layoffs between now and June. Detroit and Light employee Stan Hall said, “It wouldn’t be any better in June than it would be today. The timing doesn’t matter, a lot of people are going to go without.”
Meantime, with the holidays approaching, fellow Detroit and Light employee Corneilis Johnson of Detroit said, “It’s just sad, people are going to lose their jobs, especially this time of year. You’ve got Christmas coming up, New Year’s Day, and nothing to look forward to.
Read Bing's entire speech: Mayor Dave Bing's entire speech on Detroit's financial crisis
Bing said he requested many concessions from city union leaders, including a 10 percent wage cut across the board, elimination of furlough days, 10 percent increase in employee contributions to their healthcare, pension reforms, reducing overtime costs and more layoffs.
The mayor said the concessions will save the city $40 million per year, which would be helpful for a city that could face a $45 million budget shortfall next year.
"This is not an attack on labor or our dedicated employees. The private sector including the auto industry was forced to accept tough cuts to survive," he said."
Bing also said the city's lighting problem is very important and must be fixed.
Bing announced plans to change the city's struggling bus system. He said initiatives such as police enforcement already have been put in place to make the Detroit Department of Transportation's bus system better.
Moreover, the mayor said the city is now searching for a new management firm for the bus system.