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S.F. unionized employees favor furlough days over reduced work hours

Plan amounts to 5% pay cut as city faces $522-million budget deficit

With cities in the Tri-Valley and throughout much of California facing budget deficits as tax revenues fall, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that he has an agreement with city unions to curb costs there.

Newsom said a tentative agreement with city employees' unions to institute 12 furlough days over a two-year period as an alternative to the mayor's proposal to reduce the work hours of about 15,000 employees.

The agreement, which amounts to about a 5 percent pay cut, would help by "not only preserving city jobs, but preserving city services in San Francisco," Newsom said.

Several employee unions had been in discussions with the mayor's office in recent weeks to find an alternative to Newsom's proposal to lay off thousands of employees and hire most of them back at 37.5 hours per week, a proposal many unions had criticized.

The city, which employs about 26,000 people, is facing an estimated $522 million general fund budget deficit.

The two-year agreement announced Friday still has to be ratified by each union that Newsom said will hopefully take place within the next few weeks.

Bob Muscat, executive director of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, said union leaders "all feel confident that our members will be willing to ratify these agreements when they're completed because they're the best thing for them and for the people that live in San Francisco."

Muscat, whose union represents about 4,000 engineers, architects, and Internet technology and public health employees, said the agreement should be looked upon favorably because it is not permanent, and will likely reduce child care and transportation costs for the workers.

The agreement is estimated to save the city nearly $100 million annually, according to Newsom.

He said more employees will be included in the furlough agreement than had been in the reduced work hours proposal, but essential services such as police and fire will be excluded.

Newsom said the framework still needed to be worked out for which days will be furloughed, but wanted to avoid the "terrible process" by which state workers have been furloughed.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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