Voluntary Furloughs for City Workers

City of Houston employees could take more time off during the holiday season, but without pay. Today Mayor Annise Parker announced a voluntary furlough program she hopes will boost the city's budget problems. Bill Stamps has more.
The City of Houston was already facing budget issues, but when the red light camera proposition was defeated, that meant another ten million dollars they’d have to make up for. Faced with possible layoffs or mandatory furloughs, the head of the city employees union approached Mayor Parker with the idea of voluntary furloughs. This is union President Melvin Hughes.

"It’s the first time — I’ve been at the city 17 years — and this is the first time that we had a mayor to sit down and show us some numbers that there is a problem here. But HOPE and city employees, we made up our mind that we want to be a part of the solution. We are willing to give and to help."

Mayor Parker and the union want to make it clear that the days off without pay are strictly voluntary and that no employees will be asked to take off work if they don’t want to.

"I don’t know today how many employees will step up. I just know that I’m greatful to those who are willing to do it. I don’t know how much money we are going to save. But I know it will have an impact on our decisions going forward."

Councilmembers Wanda Adams and Brenda Stardig are the ones having to deal with the city’s financial problems and they're hopeful the union workers will step up to the plate.

"This is our third pay check month. This is why this is so important, you need to know that we get paid three pay checks this month. So people feel that on their third paycheck to take the hit is not as deep as it was when we went into every two weeks, so this is so important.

"For them to set forward and to voluntarily be willing to give up a day of their pay to be a team player. That's what this is about. We are all in this together and we are making some tough decisions."

Mayor Parker says the city may still have to make some tough choices down the road, but hopes the voluntary furloughs will have a significant impact on the budget situation.

"This is about asking employees — during this holiday season, all of us have bills to pay — what we’re willing to do to help with the bottom line. We’ll evaluate at the end of the month and see where we are."

The furloughs will take place during December. Mayor Parker says will lead by example and plans to work without pay next Wednesday.