San Diego on Thursday night rescinded furloughs it ordered last week for 800 city workers. And it has agreed to continue paying those employees their full salaries and to find them other city tasks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the employees had been working at city libraries and recreation centers before those facilities closed. Some others worked for the city’s Transportation and Stormwater Department.
The decision to rescind the furloughs comes after the labor union representing most of the workers, the Municipal Employees Assn., filed a grievance last Saturday.
Mike Zucchet, the union’s general manager, said Thursday night that the city’s willingness to find other jobs for the workers resolves the union’s grievance, which would have gone to the City Council if Mayor Kevin Faulconer hadn’t resolved it.
Zucchet said the workers — even those who didn’t work at all this week because they had received furlough notices a week ago — would receive all of the pay and benefits they would have been entitled to if they hadn’t stopped working.
However, he noted that roughly 1,000 part-time city workers have either stopped receiving pay or had their hours reduced. No grievance was filed on behalf of those workers because they have weaker employment rights as part-time, hourly workers.
The furloughs had been issued only to “permanent” employees for the city, Zucchet said.
The furloughs would have helped the city close an estimated revenue shortfall that city officials have blamed on the pandemic. In late March, Faulconer estimated the city will lose $109 million — $83 million in hotel tax revenue and $26 million in sales tax revenue.
San Diego is expected to suffer more than most other local cities because it relies so much on tourism.
Using the average salary for city workers of $70,000, one month of furloughs for 800 employees would have saved the city nearly $5 million. If the furloughs lasted through June, the city’s savings could approach $15 million.
City officials haven’t revealed how much they are saving by discontinuing pay for the hourly workers, many of whom worked at city libraries and recreation centers.
The 800 workers represented about 7% of the city’s 11,000-member workforce. The other 93% have either started telecommuting or have been shifted to other duties since the county’s stay-at-home order three weeks ago made it difficult or impossible to report to work in a normal fashion.
Zucchet said the previously furloughed workers would either help out at a new homeless shelter at the San Diego Convention Center, complete tasks for the Development Services Department or be given other city work.
Craig Gustafson, a spokesman for Faulconer, said the city is continuing to work with its employee groups to allow those who are no longer working at closed facilities to continue in alternative jobs.
“Our community will benefit from the help of every city employee who is in an essential service role or is tasked with one,” he said. “We know that not every employee can perform these duties, but we hope many will and we will work with those who can to ensure they continue to be a part of the city workforce.”
Garrick writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.