City workers complain about furloughs

February 16, 2011 8:11:19 AM PST
Six weeks ago, the Houston mayor and city workers stood in solidarity and agreement as the city announced mandatory furloughs. But for the first time, we're seeing very emotional outrage over these furloughs and it surfaced in the City Council chambers.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker faced criticism over the city's handling of recent layoffs.

Councilwoman Wanda Adams said, "I want to know, who they were replaced by, what was their experience because what I am hearing is very deplorable, deplorable, deplorable!"

Adams brought up three African-American workers laid off by the city and demanded to know who replaced them.

"We have been undergoing reductions in force across a number of city departments, including payroll. There were no replacements," she said.

Mayor Parker said she would get council members a list of laid-off workers that would include race and gender. The discussion started when current and former 311 service workers asked the city to reinstate Gloria Bingham, founder and director of the city's 311 system. The city laid off Bingham Friday and replaced her with a deputy director who 311 workers say has no call center experience.

"He actually earns 10 percent less than Ms. Bingham did before, and he is not getting a pay raise for taking on these new responsibilities," Mayor Parker said.

Councilman C.O. Bradford was surprised to learn from the mayor that the city laid off a top level employee, charged with implementing a $22 million municipal courts project.

"We have to communicate better, in my view, as to not what has been done, like two weeks he's gone, but what we are going to do," Bradford said.

"I respectfully request that everyone realize that this is not easy on any of us," Councilwoman Brenda Stardig said.

At one point during the contentious meeting, Mayor Parker left the council chambers to attend another meeting. The mayor did eventually return to the city council meeting.