Hearing held on privatization of city jobs

12/20/07 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

Last month, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio announced a new program called “Changing the Business of Government” that attempts to save the city money.

One of the most contentious parts of that program involves privatizing the jobs of some low-paid city employees in addition to layoffs announced earlier in the year. About 100 city employees, most of them from security and janitorial services, would be laid off and private companies would be contracted to provide these services.

There has been a backlash from unions, employees and from the Tampa City Council, which held a public hearing on the issue this morning.

Council member John Dingfelder raised concerns that minorities would bear the brunt of the job cuts and that the layoffs are counter to the city’s stated mission of transforming East Tampa.

Dingfelder said laying off 100 city employees would leave 235 people without health insurance -- that figure includes employees' dependents. It is unlikely the private companies that get the contract to replace the fired employees would offer adequate health benefits, so there would be an increased burden on the county’s indigent health program.

Dingfelder said cutting government programs has just shifted the burden to another government’s budget, but not helped the taxpayer.

Council member Thomas Scott suggested the City Council require contractors to provide health insurance to their employees. Mary Mulhern suggested that each council member appoint two people to a citizen’s budget review committee that would find other ways to reducing city spending.

Dingfelder suggested that rather than cutting employees, the contracts of all city workers should be renegotiated to take a pay cut. Council member Linda Saul-Sena expressed concern about liability to the city if a private contractor is sued.

During the public comment portion of the meeting several people spoke out against the privatization of city jobs, including Gerald White, the former vice president of the IBW local union.

Benjamin Buckley works for the city of Tampa and reminded the council that laid-off employees would cost the community money in this time of budget shortfalls.

If Amendment 1, the property tax cut measure on the Jan. 29 ballot, passes, cities and counties will have to cut millions more out of their already-stretched budgets. Saul-Sena said this is why Floridians should reject Amendment 1.

Learn more:

WMNF report on privatization plan

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