Here in California, faced with a devastating fiscal crisis, Gov. Brown is talking about cuts. If I were in charge, I’d cut out whole departments and agencies because they’re inefficient, redundant, unnecessary, or entirely inappropriate uses of taxpayer funds. Or within departments, I’d simply do a “rip off the band-aid” approach and fire some employees entirely. It would be painful, but the department would be pruned and the fired employees wouldn’t be in workplace limbo. Instead, they could get on with their lives.
Gov. Brown, however, is going a different route, at least for some things. Rather than get rid of entire departments or entire employees, he’s proposing cutting back on hours — and pay with it. This means that a government office that was open five days a week will be open only four days a week. Everyone working in that office will take a 20% pay cut. That’s a big cut.
Two questions for you: First, from the employee’s point of view, would you rather be laid off, making a clean break, or would you prefer to have a 20% pay cut in exchange for a much shorter work week? Second, from the taxpayer’s point of view, do you think it’s better to get rid of whole programs or clumps of employees, or do you think it’s better to cut back on everything at once by shortening hours and pay?
UPDATE: Here’s an email from someone with a personal insight into government employment:
May I suggest you consider one other little item? Ask the employees what they think. My wife works for the Cal State system ; they were confronted with something similar a few years ago. The union was asked whether or not they’d like to accept fewer hours/lower pay or some number of layoffs (by seniority, of course). They voted for the reduced hours by a fairly large margin. Never came to fruition, but the peons seemed pretty well to know the right answer.
Remember, once you lay off all those folks, you just put them on the unemployment rolls for 99 weeks, then … Given our “business friendly” climate, what do you think will happen?
Something to consider. State employees are human beings too.
State employees are definitely human beings, and I respect the ones who work hard and provide real services. Their views do matter, although I would never deny the government the right make raesonable and appropriate, albeit painful, cuts to the job roll.