Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade employees get job-cut notices

Rebeca Sosa, chairwoman of the Miami-Dade county commission, said she was surprised to learn two county police positions would be eliminated in this year’s budget.
Rebeca Sosa, chairwoman of the Miami-Dade county commission, said she was surprised to learn two county police positions would be eliminated in this year’s budget.

Miami-Dade County has notified more than 100 government workers that their jobs were eliminated by the 2015 budget — including two civilian police posts that sparked a protest Thursday from a powerful county commissioner who said she was misled on public-safety cuts.

The 2015 budget calls for more than 300 job cuts countywide — a minor downsizing for a bureaucracy with about 25,000 full-time workers. Since some eliminated positions are already vacant, the county’s layoff figure is sure to be significantly lower. And thanks to union protections, not all workers occupying eliminated jobs will actually wind up unemployed.

Instead, many will be “bumped” into other positions held by less senior employees, who in turn may “bump” out another worker somewhere else in government. Notification letters sent this week include those getting “bumped” out of a job, as well as those doing the “bumping” to stay employed.

Late Thursday, the mayor’s office issued a summary of layoff actions stating that 105 filled positions had been officially eliminated as departments implement the budget. That action prompted 157 letters to be issued to employees holding those slots and to employees affected by the “bumping” process. (The mayor’s office earlier this week said about 250 letters had gone out, but Thursday’s summary put the official figure at 157.)

The summary showed the county’s Public Works department hit the hardest, with 43 filled positions cut, followed by Parks, Housing and Human Services with about 25 cuts each.

While the budget adopted last month included staffing cuts, much of the attention went to jobs that were retained — namely, the more than 200 police-officer jobs that Mayor Carlos Gimenez initially proposed cutting, before he backed off the plan in favor of a patchwork of revenue fixes.

The latest batch of job-cut notices included two police videographers used to promote the department and to film ceremonies and events. Juan Perez, the department’s deputy director, said those were the only two job cuts in the department’s budget, though a supervisor in the videography unit was also demoted to a producer slot through the “bumping” process.

With about 25,000 full-time employees in 2014, the county’s budgeted reductions amount to a roughly 1 percent reduction for 2015. Because “bumping” rights will keep some letter recipients employed, it’s not known how many will actually lose their jobs.

So far, the biggest layoff notice this year by private employers in Miami-Dade affected 243 employees, according to the state’s labor agency. Metropolitan Hospital of Miami, at 5959 NW Seventh St., notified state regulators in April that it was closing for a year’s renovation, requiring the dismissals. Governments do not need to report job cuts to the public in the way businesses do.

In a letter to county commissioners Wednesday, as reported in the Political Cortadito blog, police-union chief John Rivera blasted the cuts as dishonesty from Gimenez. The two have publicly feuded over the police budget and Gimenez’s reworking of the county health-plan system, and both sides are set for contract talks to begin next week.

“When the mayor told you and the rest of the community there would be no layoffs, he outright lied,” Rivera wrote in a letter circulated to media Thursday morning by the union. “It not only reeks of retaliation, it is yet another example why the mistrust exists between the employees and the administration.”

Rebeca Sosa, the chairwoman of the commission, sent a terse memo to Gimenez on Thursday echoing Rivera’s criticism of the police cuts.

“I am puzzled and troubled by this information as at the time the Board of County Commissioners approved the FY 2014-15 budget, it was conveyed to us that no positions would be impacted in the Miami-Dade County Police Department,” Sosa wrote. “I am respectfully requesting a written explanation regarding this development.”

Gimenez did pledge to preserve all “sworn” police positions — meaning, not civilian — but non-sworn positions remained at risk, according to budget memos and reports given to commissioners at meetings.

On Sept. 4, budget director Jennifer Moon told commissioners that 48 civilian police posts were still at risk, but that 36 would be saved from healthcare savings brought on by pending healthcare agreements. On Sept. 18, as commissioners prepared a final vote on the budget, the mayor released a memo announcing that 42 civilian police positions would be preserved.

No mention was made of remaining cuts in the politically sensitive area of police, but the math would suggest another six civilian posts were still at risk. Vacant positions do not require layoff notices, which may explain why only three police employees received letters about their posts being eliminated.

In a response to Sosa, Gimenez wrote he was “surprised” at her memo since he was “clear” that civilian police positions were at risk despite his pledge to save the jobs of sworn police officers. “Public safety has always been my highest priority since being elected Mayor,” he wrote.

In a statement Thursday, Gimenez’s spokesman, Michael Hernández, noted that Gimenez reworked his budget to avoid planned cuts of police-officer jobs while the police union continues to drag its feet on contract negotiations.

“The contrast could not be clearer: While Mayor Gimenez and his administration worked hard to avoid layoffs, balance the budget and keep taxes at a reasonable level, John Rivera has refused to meet with the administration or negotiate in good faith. That is regrettable,” Hernández said in a statement.