A range of Baltimore city government employees will be furloughed for up to six days as the city faces declining revenues related to the coronavirus pandemic. They include administrators, IT specialists, attorneys and other white-collar staffers.
City officials said roughly 1,500 employees fall under the furlough plan, though a union president put the figure closer to 2,000.
The furloughs for members of the Managerial and Professional Society of Baltimore Inc. over the fiscal year will save roughly $2.7 million, said James Bentley, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, a Democrat.
The union is one of several representing city employees. In April, city officials told labor leaders they were proposing three options as the city dealt with the fiscal impact of the pandemic: freeze salaries, meaning employees would forgo previously negotiated raises; furlough workers; or lay off more than 170 people.
“The other unions made no decisions,” Bentley said. “The end result is I think there are going to be layoffs” of other union members.
The furlough plan will range from four to six days over the next year, depending on an employee’s salary, according to an agreement between the union, known as MAPS, and the city. The deal is set to be reviewed by the city’s spending panel Wednesday morning.
MAPS’ members include a variety of city program directors, as well as analysts, engineers, City Hall staffers and others.
Under the agreement, employees will be furloughed for four days over fiscal year 2021 if they make between $30,000 and $60,000; five days if they make between $60,000 and $90,000; and six days if they make more than $90,000.
In an email to The Baltimore Sun, MAPS President Michael Guye said furloughs were better than layoffs “and wondering if you’ll get an unemployment check on time to meet family obligations.” He noted that members maintained 2.5% raises, which were negotiated previously.
Wendy Smith, who heads the union representing nurses in the city health department and public schools, said her union has told the city “we’re not going to choose any of these options” that were presented — the furloughs, wage freeze, or layoffs.
“None of them are acceptable,” said Smith, the president of Local 558 of AFSCME Council 67. “So I’m not sure how they [city officials] are going to play their hand ... We have not heard back as far as what they’re going to do.”
Richard “Dickie” Altieri II, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 734, said his union is now in contract negotiations that were delayed when the pandemic hit.
“We have not agreed to any furloughs,” said Altieri, adding that the union is “actively trying to work with the mayor and the city” to prevent the proposed closure of two fire companies.
City Council President Brandon Scott, the Democratic nominee for mayor, said he would take furlough days and has asked the city labor commissioner “to include elected officials in this process.” Scott makes $125,000 a year.
“COVID-19 has not been an easy time for any of us, and I want to thank our city employees for making yet another sacrifice on behalf of the well-being of our city,” Scott said in a statement.
The labor commissioner does not have the authority to furlough elected officials, Bentley of the mayor’s office said.