The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

February 20, 2009
Analysis: So what's up with the 20,000 layoff warnings?

We've received some e-mails and phone calls all asking the same question: So now that the budget is passed, is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger still going send lay off warnings to 20,000 state workers?

Well, the threat is still out there.

Here's what he said to reporters on Thursday after legislators passed the budget:

QUESTION: What does this budget vote mean for state workers as far as furloughs and the planned layoffs, can you tell us?

GOVERNOR: Well, you know, I cannot tell you, because we have to look at it. Whatever gets us the savings. I think that with the furloughs and with the sick leave and the holidays and all of those things, I think we get tremendous savings. We just have to look if we need any further savings.

We called Schwarzenegger's office this afternoon to see if there's been any budge on layoffs. Is the plan still on?

No change, we were told.

Why not? Here's our thinking:

Although Schwarzenegger has a tentative deal with SEIU Local 1000 that would cover nearly half of the state work force, he's still not come to terms with the other half.

It's clear that layoffs and furloughs are the two big sticks he's brandishing at the bargaining table to prod the other 10 unions and 11 bargaining units without new labor pacts into making concessions.

(The California Association of Highway Patrolmen aren't part of this discussion. The CHP officers' union has a four-year deal that doesn't expire until July 2, 2010.)

Look at Schwarzenegger's position:

He won the first round of the furlough court fight.

He has a tentative deal with the Local 1000, California's biggest public employee union, that (on paper at least) costs the state less than the expired contract.

He has a budget deal that includes significant changes to state worker holidays and overtime.

He just whacked by 10 percent the personal services budgets of the constitutional officers, achieving the same savings he figures his two-day-per-month furlough order would have yielded if those officials complied. (Lt. Gov. John Garamendi's office took a much bigger hit.)

So why back off on anything now? From the administration's perspective, the governor is on a roll. Of course, from the perspective of many state workers, he's rolling over them.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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