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Furloughs kept Manteca afloat
Decision soon on whether they will continue after this year
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Manteca’s municipal offices are closed next week.

It’s partly for the Thanksgiving holiday but the bulk of the days — along with seven days between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2 — are part of the non-paid municipal furloughs put in place in July 2009.

Back then as the city was struggling to deal with declining revenues triggered by the Great Recession, the city’s 385 municipal workers agreed to take a 3.8 percent pay cut in the form of unpaid furloughs to help the city weather the budget crisis.

 The pay cut amounted to $1.2 million a year. Employees had their checks reduced year round to avoid having a pay period with a smaller paycheck. The non-paid furlough days were grouped around the holidays when a number of employees would normally schedule time-off as well as because work slows down a  bit.

Garbage collection will be continued on its normal day except on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day when it will take place the day after. Only essential personnel are working during furloughs such as police, fire, and the wastewater treatment plant operators. The Manteca Police Department’s front desk will keep its normal hours except on Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, and Friday, Nov. 28. Both days are holidays.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin noted the contracts covering furloughs expire on June 30, 2015. The future of furloughs is part of the contract negotiations.

There are numerous options the employee groups could pursue including keeping the work days scheduled as they are while seeking pay raises based on the hours they have been working.

Furloughs are separate from the 9/80 work plan that has the municipal offices closed every other Friday. That was put in place to allow improved customer service by having municipal officers  open earlier and close later to accommodate commuters that need to deal with the city. A city study back in 2009 showed Friday is the lightest day for citizens to access city offices.

The furlough strategy meant every employee lost  80 hours of work or 3.8 percent of their annual pay. It translates into 112 hours a year for firefighters as they have a different work schedule. 

The contracts agreed to that included furloughs meant the city isn’t being forced to play catch-up as the economy improves to delivery previously agreed upon pay hikes retroactively. The pay raises were agreed upon prior to 2009 would have brought Manteca municipal workers close to the medium of what comparable cities in the region pay for similar jobs.

The furloughs allowed Manteca to absorb much of the financial hit without impacting services.

Furloughs — coupled with a hiring freeze as employees retired or  left to go elsewhere — also avoided massive  lay-offs of employees.