Layoff Dispute

Whenever an employer – whether government or private sector – cuts a budget, it’s no secret what such a process is shorthand for: people losing jobs. The city of Tampa is no exception. When Mayor Pam Iorio announced that more than $3 million would be sliced from the City Hall budget, it also meant that as many as 88 jobs could be jettisoned in the janitorial and security services areas.

In this case, the city says it will show savings from privatizing. While bottom-line prudence is always expected, nobody is celebrating the loss of jobs and the people who hold them.

While a budget — and the priorities and judgment calls of those who oversee it — is always fair game, recent criticism of the privatizing plan has taken a misguided turn. It has focused unduly on the racial and ethnic composition of those in the affected areas. According to an analysis by City Council Finance Chairman John Dingfelder, an inordinate number of impacted employees are black or Hispanic.

Not to be insensitive, but – so? Would this have been an issue if a bunch of Euro-Americans were being laid off? Would the compassion for those who would lose health-care benefits be as palpable?

The point is this: It’s pertinent to make the case, for example, that privatizing isn’t the way to go. Or that these are the wrong departments to privatize. Or that attrition and re-hiring scenarios haven’t been sufficiently scrutinized. Or that City Hall continues to be communication-challenged.

And it’s laudatory, if unrealistic, to raise the specter of across-the-board salary cuts for everyone.

But don’t make this a minority issue. That’s the wrong bottom line. As wrong as “No justice. No peace.”

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