Sunday, February 23, 2003

Columbus lays off 49

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The city has laid off 49 municipal employees in a cost-cutting move, including two snowplow drivers.

The employees will be paid through March 23, though most were told they could leave Friday and not return. The layoffs were handled that way because unions require a 30-day notice.

Nearly half the layoffs occurred in the Public Service Department. The snowplow drivers were the first to be given their notices, less than one week after the city was hit by a 15.5-inch snowstorm, its largest ever.

Mayor Michael Coleman's office said the city tried to minimize the effect that layoffs would have.

The city had said in November that layoffs were coming. The layoffs will save the city $2 million, Coleman spokesman Mike Brown said.

"The choices at this point were fairly unavoidable," he said.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents a majority of the workers, rejected the mayor's proposal that employees delay raises for three months in exchange for not laying off anyone.

"There's no way in the world we could sell that," said Doug Moore, president of AFSCME Local 1632.

He said the union hopes that some employees can get other city jobs.

Those who lost jobs might have enough seniority to bump other employees with less experience from their positions, Moore said.

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