Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that he was taking leave of his own staff at the town hall, including himself.
The policy applies to 495 mayors who are required to take unpaid week-long vacation between October and March 2021. The vacation days apply to everyone from administrative assistants to Mr. de Blasio and his wife’s office, Chirlane McCray.
The mayor intends to work without pay while on vacation, his spokesman said.
Faced with a two-year drop in sales of $ 9 billion due to the impact of the coronavirus on the economy, Mr de Blasio closed the city̵
He warned he would lay off 22,000 employees, a number that could be reduced depending on three factors: negotiated union returns, government clearance for New York City to fund its business with long-term debt of up to $ 5 billion and more federal debt help.
So far, his efforts to get Albany to act have fallen on deaf ears. Also his request for help from the federal government.
And so Emma Wolfe, deputy mayor for administration and chief of staff to the mayor, sent an email at 9:45 a.m. on Wednesday with details of the vacation.
“We know this is difficult to hear,” she wrote. “It’s hard for us to deliver the news.”
The vacation days would result in expected savings of $ 860,000, but the move has symbolic implications and could be a precursor to similar maneuvers to cut the budget.
According to Ana Champeny, director of urban studies at the Citizens Budget Commission, around 95,000 full-time civilians – less than a third of the city’s workforce – would save the city about $ 100 million for a week. The estimate excludes employees such as uniformed workers and teachers, whose absence could result in overtime costs and offset some of the savings.
In public statements on Wednesday, the mayor said the vacation days were “the right thing at this moment in history” and an unfortunate but inevitable result of the state and federal government’s unwillingness to act.
“I thought it was an article of faith that there would be a federal incentive,” said de Blasio. “That didn’t happen. And I don’t see any indication that there will be anything for the rest of this year. I firmly believed that our colleagues in Albany would have taken out long-term loans by now. “
In addition to the nearly 24,000 New York residents killed by the coronavirus, the pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the city’s economy and the tax revenue on which its budget is based. By July, the city had lost at least 1 million jobs. The New York Independent Budget Office assumes that the city will have lost 564,200 jobs by the end of the year, as more jobs will be created with the gradual reopening in New York.
The vacation days for non-union mayors appeared to be designed to convey Mr de Blasio’s seriousness about tightening the belt to both his government and his work partners. But vacation days for unionized workers would require negotiation, and union leaders seemed doubtful that such a move would solve the city’s problems.
In an interview, Harry Nespoli, who heads the city’s labor committee, a coalition of about 110 city unions, said he was not sure that there would be any way to save $ 1 billion in labor.
“Can’t do it,” he said. “There isn’t a billion dollars there.”
He said he wanted the mayor to withhold layoffs until later this year.
“Who knows, after the election there could be a whole new atmosphere in Washington,” he said.
Henry Garrido, who heads the city’s largest municipal workers’ union, District Council 37, said many of its members couldn’t afford a five-day vacation.
“My members live from paycheck to paycheck,” said Garrido, who wants Albany to approve an early retirement package as a cost-saving measure instead.
Budget hawks also greeted Mr. de Blasio’s recent endeavors with some skepticism.
Andrew Rein, President of the Participatory Budgeting Commission, argued that six months after this crisis, the mayor should have drawn up an efficiency plan and a plan to reduce the workforce based on attrition, and that work and management should already come together to achieve significant results Savings.
“It would be great if this helped remove that sluggishness,” said Rein. “It’s hard to say if it will be like that.”
Scott Stringer, the city administrator who is running for mayor on a platform where he “takes the lead back to town hall”, described Mr de Blasio’s vacation days as “a lazy substitute for real work”.
“Every mayor prior to this would regularly task city authorities with reviewing their budgets for recurring savings without compromising essential services and public employees,” Stringer said. “We have to reintroduce this practice.”
Originally, Mr de Blasio warned that layoffs would begin in October, but he backed off that timeline last month. He has not yet set a new deadline by which the unions must make savings and prevent layoffs.
Even if the city realizes $ 1 billion in labor savings, its budget problems are far from over.
The budget faces the possibility of $ 2.3 billion in government education cuts and the associated loss of potentially 9,000 educational jobs, in addition to the likelihood that it will bear much of the brunt of the state’s monumental budget deficits becomes. This includes what experts call the New York Police Department’s potentially illusory savings.
The metro system that sustains the city’s economy is facing its own fiscal disaster.
Under Mr de Blasio, the size of the city government and budget has grown dramatically, as have the services the city provides. He often notes that some of that growth is related to his universal Pre-K program, widely viewed as his greatest mayoral accomplishment.
“We do not want to take jobs away from public employees,” said de Blasio on Wednesday. “We don’t want to take away services from the communities that need them.”