79 Hoboken City Hall workers received layoff notices on Friday, though it remains unclear how many municipal employees will lose their jobs as a the result of an impending, multi-million dollar budget shortfall.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
” … This is to notify all employees that for reasons of economy, efficiency or other related reason, it is possible that you will be laid off or demoted from your permanent or probationary positions,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s Director of Operations Jason Freeman wrote in a letter that went out to workers Friday.
“This layoff will be effective at the close of the working day on May 7, 2020. This notification provides you with the minimum 45 day layoff notice required by the above law,” continuing that the notice will expire after 120 days unless the head of the New Jersey Civil Service Commission takes further action.
According to the letter, civil service will notify affected employees prior to May 7th.
City spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri said today, about two weeks before the city’s budget will first be introduced, pointed to healthcare and pension costs – as well as labor contract negotiations – as the main reasons for this year’s budget crunch (as he had previously).
“Unfortunately, fixed costs including rising health care, pension and previously negotiated union contracts have created a number of challenges for the City for the upcoming budget,” Chaudhuri stated.
“Layoffs are a worst case scenario and every effort will be made over the coming weeks to produce a budget with the City Council that reduces costs and keeps Hoboken fiscally sound for the long-term.”
He did not specifically respond to a question asking if there was any preliminary layoff plan to accompany the initial version of the budget.
As HCV first reported, then-Business Administrator Stephen Marks said in January that an anticipated budget shortfall of over $7 million could equate to 80 layoffs.
Since then, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, the chair of the council’s revenue and finance subcommittee, has said the city could actually be in the red as much as $14 million, though expressed at the February 18th council meeting that new revenues could bring that number down to about $12 million.
The mayor’s office disagrees with that assessment though, pointing out that a December 17th memo from Marks pegged the exact figure as $7,420,795 and that hasn’t changed.
The head of the Hoboken municipal employees union, where members had received 46 out of the 79 layoff notices, expressed frustration over the process and indicated that the administration has basically shut the door on entertaining any conversations with them.
“It’s very upsetting and overwhelming to people. Even though I’m the union president, I received a personal letter as well. The administration was pretty much silent [on Friday] and they seem to be disinterested in hearing from our union,” Hoboken Municipal Employees Association President Diane Nieves told HCV over the phone.
“None of their part-time workers are included on this list, it only seems to be workers that have been here for many years: they targeted people, particularly more women than men,” she added, noting that everyone where she works, the Rent Leveling and Stabilization Office, received a layoff notice.
The next Hoboken City Council meeting is at City Hall, 94 Washington St., on Wednesday, March 4th, at 7 p.m.