60 city workers facing layoffs due to aid cuts Health Department affected the most


Baltimore is preparing to lay off 60 employees -- most of them in the Health Department -- in response to a $14.3 million cut in state aid since July.

The layoffs, scheduled to take effect Oct. 30, mark the beginning of yet another painful period for employees of the financially strapped city.

Even as the layoff notices are being mailed, city labor leaders are bracing for another job reduction. That is expected to come as soon as City Hall learns the impact on Baltimore of the most recent cut in state aid to local governments. That cut could cost the city another $20 million once the details are sorted out, probably by January.

The current round of layoffs hits hardest at the Health Department, where 42 workers are being laid off. They include nurses who make home visits to new and expectant mothers in an effort to reduce infant mortality. Also being cut is a program that tracks the trails of communicable diseases.

In addition, a range of environmental health programs will be curtailed, including testing drinking water for lead, inspecting public pools, inspecting waste disposal sites, monitoring private waste haulers and testing for air pollution.

"If these programs continue to exist at all, they will be mere shadows of themselves," said Elias A. Dorsey, deputy health commissioner.

The other 18 layoffs are sprinkled among several city agencies. They are the Department of Recreation and Parks, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Museum of Art, the Finance Department and the Community Relations Commission.

The layoffs in the Department of Recreation and Parks come after several unions representing workers in the department overwhelmingly rejected a management proposal to substitute furloughs for layoffs. One proposal, made to the recreation workers represented by the City Union of Baltimore, would have substituted 12 furlough days for the layoffs. Union members turned back the offer -- which amounted to better than a 5 percent pay cut -- by 10-1, union leaders said.

In the end, workers from only one municipal union approved the plan, prompting management to rescind the offer, said Jesse Hoskins, the city's acting labor commissioner.

"The way it was proposed, everybody had to participate," Mr. Hoskins said. "Since everyone did not participate, it is not an option."

Cheryl D. Glenn, president of CUB, said municipal labor leaders are planning a City Hall rally Tuesday to demonstrate the anger of city workers. "The workers are sick and tired of the city trying to balance the budget on the backs of the city employees who are on the lowest rung of the ladder," she said. "We are very frustrated."

"The workers are offended that the city even asked them to consider accepting furloughs of that nature," Mrs. Glenn continued. "We've been through a lot. The workers have not had a raise since 1991. And there was a pay cut last year."

Last month, several municipal labor unions won a lawsuit filed in the wake of furloughs imposed by the city during a budget crisis last year. The city is appealing.

Also last month, Gov. William Donald Schaefer said the state would cut $150 million in aid to local governments. Details of that cut have yet to emerge, but city officials have warned that Baltimore could lose about $20 million in state aid.

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