By Jason Song | LA Times
November 24, 2009 -- About 20,000 Los Angeles school district workers have agreed to four unpaid furlough days to help close a large budget gap, officials announced Monday.
Two units of Service Employees International Union Local 99 representing cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other employees approved the measure last week by a combined vote of 953 to 234, said Blanca Gallegos, a union spokeswoman.
The members will take one furlough day per month from February through May. The move will save about $7.7 million, according to union officials.
Earlier this month, district officials asked union members to accept the furlough days and a future 12% pay cut to offset a nearly $60-million budget deficit this year and a $480-million shortfall next year.
"By each of us taking on a bit of the hardship it is our goal to prevent more layoffs in the future and ensure that students continue to receive the services they need to learn," said Edward Reed, Local 99's president, in a statement.
The union did not vote on the pay cut, which must be negotiated.
District officials have said that they will need further concessions from unions.
"We're grateful that SEIU is the first group to stand up," said district spokeswoman Lydia Ramos. "We need everyone to stand up and do the same."
United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy could not be reached for comment. Duffy has said he is willing to negotiate with district officials but wants more financial information.
Last year, the district approved, but did not require, four unpaid days off for most employees.
As part of the agreement, L.A. Unified agreed not to schedule any new SEIU Local 99 layoffs this year if the budget deficit does not grow beyond $59 million by late January. If the shortfall is more than $59 million, the union and district will begin negotiations.
Earlier this year, about 1,100 bus drivers who are also represented by SEIU Local 99 agreed to six unpaid days off this fiscal year.
To deal with the budget, Supt. Ramon C. Cortines on Monday announced an immediate districtwide spending freeze that affects travel and catering expenses and the hiring of non-classroom staff.
Teachers, administrators, bus drivers and other employees deemed essential to schools are exempted from the freeze.