Emanuel makes budget changes to avoid laying off city workers - for now

But says union concessions still needed to keep 625 jobs

July 1, 2011

(File/Bill Healy)

Hundreds of city workers will avoid being laid off for the time being, as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday announced $20 million dollars in cost saving measures after a labor concession agreement was allowed to lapse.

Emanuel ordered a partial hiring freeze and said seven city-run health clinics will turn over primary care services to federally funded clinics. But the mayor added that he and labor unions still will have to agree to about $11 million in concessions in order to avoid 625 layoffs.

"I need them to be partners, " Emanuel said on Friday. "I am not interested in laying off the 625. It's a choice we have to make collectively. I don't like giving people pink slips."

Labor representatives are in the process of putting together their own cost-saving proposal, which they say should be ready in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, Emanuel said Friday he will not send out layoff notices until he has a chance to see the unions' suggestions.

"I'm not gonna send those out, because it would violate what I think is the spirit and environment and atmosphere I'm trying to construct where ... I want labor to be a partner," Emanuel said.

The sticky labor situation comes courtesy of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's administration, which relied on labor concessions to balance the full-year budget for 2011. But the temporary agreement Daley struck with the unions expired Thursday night, leaving Emanuel's team to come up with $31 million to fill out the second half of the year.

A spokesman for the Chicago Federation of Labor, a coaltion of unions representing city workers, didn't immediately return a phone call for comment after Emanuel's Friday morning press conference.

But in a statement sent earlier this week, the unions said the Emanuel administration has had "absolutely no negotiations" with unions about the expiration of the agreement, and a spokesman said they hadn't heard anything new as of early Friday morning.