Why not Chop at the Top, first?

Orange County to lay off social service workers Dec. 29
Chop at the TopThe 210 employees who lose their jobs will get two weeks notice. County officials also prepare to proceed with more terminations.

By Stuart Pfeifer – LA Times

December 16, 2008 – Orange County officials plan to deliver layoff notices to social services workers in two weeks and are preparing to proceed with further job cuts even as union officials argue that the county should search for alternatives.

Termination notices will be given to 210 social services employees Dec. 29, giving the workers two weeks’ notice before they lose their jobs, county spokeswoman Pat Markley said Monday. 

An additional 4,000 social services employees will begin two weeks of mandatory unpaid leave in February, Markley said. 

The layoffs and furloughs are the result of an anticipated deep reduction in state funding of social services programs, county officials said last week.  

About one-third of the targeted workers process public assistance claims for the needy and unemployed, said Herman Martinez, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local in Orange County.

“The sad reality is we may one day see our co-workers in the lobby applying for benefits,” he said. “There’s not exactly an abundance of jobs out there, the way the economy is going.” 

Because the layoffs will be based on seniority, many of the workers already know their jobs are in jeopardy, Martinez said.

He is familiar with that fear: Martinez was laid off after the county’s 1994 bankruptcy but got his job back a few years later.

“All the labor groups have reached out to the county and said, ‘Let’s sit down and find ways to cut costs and keep workers off of the unemployment lines.’ There’s no indication they’re looking at solutions that will reduce the number of layoffs,” Martinez said.  Read more of the LATimes Story here.

One solution that Orange County Employees Association GM Nick Berardino has continued to suggest, if not demand, is that the agency approach the process of layoffs by Chopping at the TOP. Early on in this process Berardino suggested that the county cut perks for executives and rescind a planned pay raise for county managers, but he has been unable to get the county to reduce the number of planned layoffs. In initial meetings where the Social Services Agency managers were asked how they arrived at their numbers the answer from one manager was “I knew how much the budget was short and I started cutting at the bottom and worked up until I hit the number I needed.”  

So the management strategy for this crisis is “Cop at the Bottom?” With this level of creative thinking, the public and workers get screwed; while management is virtually unaffected. In applying a level of creative thought engaged in by SSA Management, I can think of at least one position to CHOP AT THE TOP.