Housing employees vote to OK layoffs Union makes move rather than agree to contract concessions

August 08, 1996|By Marilyn McCraven | Marilyn McCraven,SUN STAFF

After more than four months of negotiations, a union representing 400 Baltimore City Housing Authority maintenance workers has voted to accept about 30 layoffs from its ranks rather than agree to contract concessions in accepting a two-year pact with city government, city and union officials said.

The voice vote Monday by Local 647 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees reflects the belief that "layoffs are inevitable" as aging high-rise developments are replaced with rowhouse communities maintained by private businesses, a union official said yesterday.

If the union had rejected the layoffs and accepted the contract concessions, "We'd lose [some] benefits and there would be layoffs, too," the union official said.

The union official requested anonymity because the local had agreed to not discuss the issue with the media.

Eric Brown, a housing authority deputy executive director, said he repeatedly asked the local's representatives to accept the alternative proposal, which promised no layoffs in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1997.

"At every juncture, I told them I need your help to avoid laying people off," Brown said. " They chose 'Lay my folks off.' I think it's awful," said Brown, who represented the housing authority in negotiations.

From the local's view, the two most objectionable items in the alternative proposal were requirements that local members pay 2 percentage points more for health insurance premiums, or 13 percent of the premium, and work a 40-hour week before receiving overtime pay, the union official said. Local members now work 37.5 hours before getting overtime.

Many of the local members to be laid off as of Aug. 17 are upset about the vote, including Lynell Ervin, 36, an 18-month housing authority employee. "I'm really hurt about it," Ervin said. "I felt that if I got a job with the city it would be steady work. I wouldn't have to go from job to job."

Lafayette Courts and Lexington Terrace, public housing high-rise developments, have been razed and are to be replaced with communities of mostly rowhouses. Plans for the replacement developments call for private management, which would be responsible for maintenance.

Brown said any future federal budget cuts will dictate whether there are more layoffs.

Some union members also are upset that nine apprentice mechanics with up to two years of experience are among the approximately 30 to be laid off, while nine housing authority residents in a mechanic-trainee program are being retained.

Brown said the mechanic-trainee program, funded by a $1.1 million federal grant, is run by AFSCME and the housing authority. It cannot be discontinued because of federal requirements.

The laid-off workers will meet at housing authority offices, 417 E. Fayette St., at 9 a.m. today to receive information on filing for unemployment, officials said.

Pub Date: 8/08/96

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