La Puente employees to take furloughs

All La Puente city employees are being forced to take two furlough days a month over the next year in an effort to offset growing revenue losses.

The furloughs — which will amount to a 10 percent annual wage cut — were approved last week and are effective immediately for the city’s roughly 30 part-time and full-time employees.

They will also lose their 3 percent cost of living increase for this fiscal year, which began July 1 and ends June 30.

City officials said while they understand the economic impacts of such a wage reduction to its employees, they also are doing what they can to weather an economic downturn that’s ravaged city revenues.

Officials initially planned to implement 15 percent pay cuts across the board for its employees. But after negotiations with the union, they came back with the furlough option.

The union countered with its own concessions — they agreed to accept the twice-a-month furloughs, but asked the city only forego employees’ cost of living increases for six months.

Jason Elias, a lead work site organizer for Local 721, said the city would have only needed to save $28,000 to give employees a 3 percent raise for the last six months of the fiscal year.

“If by November, we couldn’t find that $28,000 then would have agreed to forego our raise for the rest of the year,” Elias said. “But they wouldn’t budge on their negotiations. They weren’t willing to work with the employees.”

Mayor Louie Lujan said he would have liked to go with the union’s option, but he lacked enough council support.

“What they were asking for was not unreasonable,” Lujan said.

In order to implement the current furloughs, City Hall will be closed every Friday versus on alternating Fridays.

Employees at the city’s maintenance yard, the senior center, the community center and the youth activities learning center will alternate their furloughs on Mondays and Fridays so that those facilities can stay open five days a week.

Councilwoman Lola Storing said while the union may not be happy with the city’s final decision, the employees are.

Elias said the employees are willing to make sacrifices, but “nobody is happy.” He also pointed to interim City Manager Frank Tripepi’s unwillingness to negotiate with the union.