The City of South Pasadena on Thursday said it “furloughed” 52 non-essential part-time workers. The furlough officially began April 27 but the employees, who work in library and community services, were sent home March 20 in compliance with the orders to close all non-essential city facilities and programs, Tamara Binns, executive assistant to the City Manager, said in an email. Although they didn’t work, the part timers were paid for their “average hours” through April 27, she added.
News of the furloughs was not brought to the attention of the Finance Commission during its April 22 special meeting nor during any of the three public meetings the City Council has held since March 20.
Sierra Betinis, president of the Public Service Employees Association Part Time Union confirmed the furlough, saying affected employees represent 70 percent of union membership. But she said the furloughs affected more than the 52 persons described by the city because part-timers across all departments are impacted.
Betinis said members are not being paid as of April 27 and have not been given a return date. She also said the “average hours” for which members were paid through April 27 was based on a formula that did not in all cases represent the number of hours members normally work. She noted that some did in fact work during the period and/or were under an “on call” status.
Because they are furloughed and not “laid off,” members’ relationships with the city have not been formally severed, meaning they can still return without going through procedures such as background checks. And while part-times don’t get benefits such as medical and dental, they are entitled to CALPERS retirement benefits, although these will not accrue during the furlough.
While the effects of the pandemic on part-time employees were sudden and came down as a result of state action, Betinis said she believes the city handled the situation “as best and in the most ethical way they could.” But while the city is saving $26,000 every two weeks by having furloughed the part-timers, she noted it could save more by reducing the city’s highly paid department head salaries by 10 to 20 percent.