The Department of Public Works employees facing layoffs will have to wait at least another month for the City Council to vote on the merger between their department and the Jersey City Incinerator Authority.
The consolidation has been proposed by Mayor Jerramiah Healy to save an estimated $5 million because the city is anticipating an $80 million budget deficit next year.
The city is also considering the layoffs of 82 police officers, another part of the effort to save money.
“[The city] shouldn’t do what they want to do.” – Jim Brady
Before Wednesday’s meeting Kelly said the vote could be delayed until February. The city had wanted to go through with the layoffs by January. After the vote, they will have to wait about a month for the state to sign off on a layoff plan and then an additional 45 days to give layoff notices. They would like to realize the savings in their budget for the upcoming calendar year.
It suggests the JCIA staff could be cut by 34 employees and the DPW by 125.
Public Works, currently with 308 employees, is responsible for maintenance and repair of city-owned buildings, parks, and vehicles. The Incinerator Authority is responsible curbside trash and recycling collection, as well as graffiti and snow removal. The JCIA is also independent of city oversight, has its own ability to issue bonds, and its employees are not protected by Civil Service regulations as Public Works employees are.
Rethinking it through
Part of the delay can also be attributed to Public Works protesting the plan and sending memos and documents to city officials and the media in the past month. They are making the case that the city should be going in the opposite direction, folding the JCIA into Public Works, since that would save over $10 million, according to a report in May by a consultant hired by the city.
Some employees also showed up at the council caucus and the council meeting to make sure the city was not going forward with a vote.
One of those who came Wednesday was Jim Brady, who works as a DPW’s automotive mechanic and has been an employee for 34 years.
“We’re glad that they are putting it off for at least another month,” Brady said. “[The city] shouldn’t do what they want to do. I know this is a political move and not an economic move.”
Brady said many of the jobs in the Incinerator Authority were once under the purview of Public Works.
The May report by attorney Eric Bernstein that suggests merging the JCIA into the city’s operations found that much of the cost savings would come from merging five JCIA services, including property maintenance and container drop-off, into the city’s Division of Buildings and Street Maintenance.
The report also did not rule out employee reductions to achieve cost savings, and it suggests the JCIA staff could be cut by 34 employees and the DPW by 125 employees. Also, the Bernstein report said the costs of running a separate, autonomous agency would be completely eliminated with a merger.
What’s in the works?
Kelly said before Wednesday’s council meeting that the ordinance merging the DPW-JCIA has been delayed for a vote while the city studies comments by state officials on the issue. He also said the ordinance may be put up to a vote at the next meeting on Jan. 12 but that was “unlikely.”
He also suggested that both agencies may be asked to share the pain, rather than go through the pain of a merger.
“We may not move forward with our initiative and ask each agency to reduce its workforce,” Kelly said.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.