Thursday, July 29, 2010

Library Jobs at Risk after Union Rejects Benefit Cuts

By Eric Yun

When the city budget was being formulated, it appeared that local libraries would face devastating cuts. After much debate, more than $61 million, including $17.6 million for Queens Library, was restored to the budget out of $77 million initially proposed to be cut.

The budget restoration prevented massive layoffs to library employees and allowed all library branches to operate on at least a five-day schedule. With the budget restoration and other cost saving methods, Queens Library was able to save 366 jobs, but 46 employees were still at risk. The Queens Library administration and the Queens Library Union, Local 1321, attempted to find ways to reduce costs and prevent layoffs.

The Queens Library administration proposed cuts to union benefits, which were already implemented to non-union staff: five furlough days a year and a permanent change so that there is no carryover on annual leave. The cuts would provide a one-
time savings of approximately $2.4 million.

Last Tuesday, Local 1321 voted 297-50 to reject the administration's proposal.

“It was way too onerous,” John Hyslop, president of Local 1321 said. “They were asking for permanent changes to our benefits for a temporary solution.”

Local 1321 members felt with possible mid-year budget cuts as well as uncertainty about next year's fiscal budget, without a guarantee of no layoffs, the administration was asking for too much.

“Losing anyone is regrettable,” Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante said, “This is a tough fiscal environment. The $17.6 mil- lion restoration preserved 366 jobs and five-day-a-week service and kept every library in Queens open....”

Hyslop said, “Our door is open,” if Queens Library administration has other proposals to save the 46 jobs. If not, the union will provide assistance to the members who lose their job.

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