SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic became a harsh reality Friday as the City of Syracuse had the first of four furlough days.
The furloughs, which affect about 1,450 union and non-union employees across all city departments, are expected to achieve nearly $2 million in savings.
The savings that result will help to offset revenue losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Not being paid is not a good thing but it’s better than having layoffs,” says AFSCME Council 66 Local 400 President, Steve Barnum.
AFSCME Council 66 Local 400 is one of the biggest unions in the City of Syracuse, representing about 410 workers, from sanitation to water department and DPW.
Barnum says the city’s unions had talked with City Hall for months about the budget hole caused by the pandemic and the need for workforce reductions if a stimulus package didn’t come from Washington.
“It’s been up and down, up and down, up and down. They were saying hopefully we’ll get it by then and then it didn’t come in so then they just had to move forward and we had to move forward, and it’s a decision we all came up with,” Barnum tells NewsChannel 9.
He says layoffs were a real possibility but union heads, superintendents, crew leaders and City Hall talked for months about alternatives. They settled on this four-day furlough plan which spreads the pain across the city workforce, starting at the top.
“I mean it’s not even just the unions and everything it’s right from the mayor, we’re all going to furlough. So, we work together and I think it’s a good thing we are working together on something like this,” Barnum says.
The next three furlough days will be Nov. 20 in 2020 and May 7 and June 25 in 2021.
On the citywide furlough days, City of Syracuse administrative offices will close, but all emergency services and essential operations will continue to be delivered.
Sanitation employees will work on the furlough days to ensure trash and recycling pickups remain on schedule. These employees have agreed to forgo holiday pay on four existing holidays during the current fiscal year.