Fearing job cuts, 4 unions plan rally

Steps suggested in study of city worry labor leaders

September 11, 2000|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Hundreds of unionized city workers are expected to rally outside City Hall today to protest business recommendations for restructuring city government and privatizing services that they fear will lead to job cuts.

The rally, scheduled for 4 p.m. and billed as a "Labor United" event, is expected to include workers from four of the city's largest unions, all of which have been working for more than two months without new contracts.

Union leaders say the recent study of city government efficiency by the Greater Baltimore Committee and the President's Roundtable will result in dramatic reductions in city services and cost members their jobs if its recommendations are implemented by Mayor Martin O'Malley.

The four unions, which represent about 13,000 of the city's 16,500 unionized workers, say the steps would eliminate community health centers, wipe out maintenance jobs in the city housing department and eliminate employees by hiring private companies to handle city public works.

"City workers are appalled by this report," said Glenard S. Middleton, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 44, which represents 4,800 city workers. "And we weren't involved in this plan."

In addition to AFSCME, other unions expected are the City Union of Baltimore, the Baltimore Fire Officers Association and the Baltimore Firefighters Association.

The event could heighten rising tensions between the unions and the O'Malley administration. Two weeks ago, O'Malley sent letters to city workers notifying them that they should not expect much of a pay raise and would be asked to contribute more toward health-benefit costs.

O'Malley called the measures necessary if the city wants to eliminate a $59 million budget shortfall projected over the next three years.

City union leaders recently rejected a 2 percent pay increase, pointing to recent raises O'Malley granted to the City Council, himself, police officers and top administrators.

The mayor said he intends to implement recommendations by the business leaders without laying off city workers.

Before leaving for a trip to Ireland on Wednesday, O'Malley said his administration welcomes suggestions from union leaders that would save the city money and preserve jobs.

"Where they have suggestions, where there are cuts, I'm all ears," O'Malley said.

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