Union leaders ask O'Malley to explore alternative cuts

Labor representatives seek ways to avoid hundreds of layoffs

April 11, 2001|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

Leaders of the union representing 5,000 blue-collar city workers called on Mayor Martin O'Malley yesterday to work with them in looking for ways to save money other than laying off hundreds of city workers.

Representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 44, and the city's other labor unions met with the O'Malley administration yesterday to discuss the potential for layoffs.

O'Malley's preliminary budget plan calls for spending cuts that could lead to more than 500 layoffs to balance next year's budget, though he has made clear he is considering new or increased taxes that would reduce the number of layoffs considerably.

AFSCME officials handed out fliers to employees at City Hall yesterday afternoon and held a news conference to criticize O'Malley for the proposed layoffs.

They blame O'Malley in part for the budget situation, saying he wasn't "far-sighted" enough when he agreed last year to give the police a three-year, $30 million pay raise.

They also say O'Malley is posturing to win concessions in contract negotations, which are scheduled to continue today with AFSCME. Instead, union officials say, the O'Malley administration should work with them to find cuts.

The possibility of layoffs "should have been avoided," said Glenard S. Middleton Sr., president of AFSCME's Local 44, which represents more than 5,000 mostly blue-collar workers. "These are workers that live here, that pay taxes here."

O'Malley said he understands the union's concerns but defended the police pay raise, reiterating his belief that improved public safety is "the way the city comes back."

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