Our agency is facing a major budget crunch. While my position is safe, those of nearly a quarter of our staff are at risk. Lay-off notices go out in mid-August.
Since I'm president of our white-collar union, I'm the one getting the panicked phone calls, the tears, the concerns of those staff members worried about their jobs and the concerns of other staff members who will have to pick up the slack--not an easy thing when we're all working at maximum capacity as it is.
So right now we are negotiating with management to see if we can cut back the number of affected employees by giving up certain financial rights we union members gained by tough bargaining two years ago. The truth is, I and most of my fellow workers WILL give up time and money to keep as many people employed here as possible.
But we differ on what we think it is reasonable to give up. Our time (and as a result a reduction in pay)? A wage freeze? A percentage or two of our pension payments? A lesser contribution toward health care? All of the above?
Some of us have budgets so tight now that any reduction in pay is going to hurt.
I'm hearing from folks who are the only employed member of their household; from people with serious chronic illnesses who are dependent upon our health benefits (which will be paid for four months after the lay-off notices, but after that, only the very expensive COBRA benefits will be available); from folks concerned about losing their homes or their vehicles.
In short, I'm learning much more than I ever wanted to know about the personal financial circumstances of the people I work with. Hardly any of these people have spent their money foolishly. But a number of them truly are only a paycheck away from disaster. This is especially true for the single parents among us.
Can you tell that I hate this?