Friday, April 4, 2003
Judges, Employees to Meet as Battle Shapes Up Over Budget Cuts
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
The Los Angeles Superior Court Executive Committee and many of the court’s employees will hold separate meetings today as confrontation looms over possible work furloughs to balance the court’s budget.
The Executive Committee, sources said, will hear a recommendation by the Personnel and Budget Committee that employees accept accrued vacation time in lieu of pay for several days between now and the end of the fiscal year June 30. If the Executive Committee approves, the next step will be a required meet-and-confer process with the unions that represent the employees.
If the unions disapprove—which is likely, their spokesmen told the MetNews yesterday—the alternative would be to close the courts and furlough employees on several days, judges and employees have been told. Court and union sources also reported that judges have been told not to schedule matters for April 17 or April 23, which would be the first of about eight furlough days.
Damian Tryon, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees District Council 36, said downtown-based members of several locals—including those representing courtroom clerks, law clerks, mediators, evaluators, and paralegals—would meet at noon today to discuss their options.
Bart Diener of Service Employees International Union Local 660, which represents court reporters, some clerks, and other units, said he was unaware of whether his union’s members would meet publicly to discuss the court’s proposals.
He indicated, however, that they were unlikely to fall into line with the vacation time proposal without exploring other options. And he noted that the court’s judges “have not offered anything in terms of a contribution,” such as by way of a voluntary salary deferral or a reduction in fringe benefits not mandated by state law.
Tryon said his union would “not entertain discussions for mandatory furloughs,” and would be distributing “I Don’t work for Free, Do You?” buttons in opposition to the vacation-time proposal. It is unfair to expect employees to work on non-paid days in exchange for vacation time that would not be available until the next fiscal year and then only if and when supervisors approved it for individual employees, he said.
Tryon lambasted the court for continuing to purchase computes, and hire people to work with them, after laying off more than 100 employees. The court, he claimed, is to take delivery on $1.2 million worth of computers this months.
“That [money] would keep the courts open for two days,” he said.
AFSCME will not be silent if its members were furloughed, he warned, but would attack the plan through litigation and by lobbying the Legislature, as well as the Judicial Council.
The unions cannot stop the courts from closing, he acknowledged, but if the courts close for reasons that are legally inadequate, he said, “we expect to be paid.”
SEIU’s Diener struck a somewhat more conciliatory tone, but also voiced skepticism of the idea of trading current pay for future compensatory or vacation time. If such a plan is implemented, he said, the workers rather than management should be given control over the scheduling of the days off.
“Employees are having a hard time taking vacations now,” he said, because the layoffs have left the court short-staffed.
Other alternatives that merit discussion, he said, are suspension of a court policy that allows for the buyback of sick time, substitution of compensatory time off for overtime, and voluntary furloughs.
Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Dukes, Assistant Presiding Judge William McLaughlin, and Personnel and Budget Committee Chair Judge Dan Oki were all unavailable for comment.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company