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Lathrop: The faces of layoffs
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LATHROP – The two young children had smiling faces in the pictures attached to their handwritten letters.

But there was nothing to smile about in the imploring words that they scrawled on each piece of paper.

The older one wrote, “If my dad were to lose his job, we would be sad because we would lose our home and not be able to get clothes, food, lunch money, and not be able to go to the dentist.”

Her younger sister expressed the same sentiment, that they would lose their home “if my dad were to lose his job.”

The father they were talking about was one of the nine people who were let go in the third round of layoffs that the city has been conducting since May of 2009 to cover the budget shortfall this year.

The total number of jobs eliminated in this Phase 3 of the city’s budget survival plan was actually 10, but only nine people were actually affected because one of the positions was in the budget but has not been filled. The original lay-off list actually totaled 11 but the council decided to save one Office Assistant position after determining that this job was vital to keep the level of services at City Hall.

One of those receiving the pink slip this week was Human Resources Director Katie Lemons whose son was also laid off from his job earlier this year but has since found a new job in Hawaii.

The letters written by the little girls were read to the Council members at their meeting on Monday by Caroline Lucas, a representative of the Local 1021 Service Employees International Union. Half of those who were let go were union members. Lucas had hoped to save the union members’ jobs by appealing to the council members in this manner.

She also recommended that the city could save some of the jobs being eliminated by getting rid of what she called the “expensive perks” being enjoyed by some of the city’s employees. She was talking about the vacation cash-out money that a number of city employees enjoy. For fiscal year 2008-09 alone, according to the figures presented by Lucas to the council, the vacation cash-out cost the city $48,430 which, she said, could have saved an average union employee’s job whose annual salary is $49,400.

The vacation cash-out paid by the city in 2009-10, according to the same figures supplied by Lucas, was $72,580. She added that the average salary of a city employee who enjoys a vacation cash-out perk is $97,918.67.

Vacation cash-out is money that a city employee can collect at the end of the year for vacation days that were not taken.

“Lathrop can’t afford expensive perks while services are cut and employees are laid off,” Lucas said.