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No Layoffs At Library By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday April 15, 2005

Unanticipated revenues have halted plans to lay off workers at the Berkeley Public Library, the library’s Executive Director Jackie Griffin said. 

Griffin said she is retooling her budget proposal after learning that Bay Area Personal Income Growth, an indicator that can be used to inflate the city’s library tax, rose 4.8 percent this year, more than double the 2 percent the library had budgeted.  

Griffin said the library has recouped enough of its budget deficit—last calculated at $850,000—to avoid letting workers go, when the new tax is added to money the library expects to save from instituting mandatory time off. 

“There won’t be layoffs,” Griffin said. 

The Library Board of Trustees rescheduled its April 13 meeting to April 27 in anticipation of receiving new budget numbers from library staff. 

Earlier this year, Griffin said nine library employees would lose their jobs under a proposed a reorganization plan to help the library balance its budget. The library reduced that layoff number to five employees last month after several employees resigned. Under Griffin’s plan, library aides, who typically do most of the library’s menial work such as shelving books, would be trained to do higher-level work as well. 

The reorganization plan has sparked fierce union opposition, which argued that the plan would leave workers with overwhelming workloads and that Griffin had ignored their suggestions to save money, including implementing mandatory time off. 

Last week, the Service Employees International Union, Local 535, which represents the library workers, filed an unfair labor charge against the library for the transfer of four library aides from general services in the central branch to the children’s department. 

“It’s a really bizarre move because a lot of our time we’re there we’re idle, while things are piling up elsewhere,” said Ayaan Gates-Williams, one of the transferred aides. She added that the four aides transferred were “four of the people most outspoken about the reorganization.” 

Union head Ynes Partridge-Lewis said that the library was still seeking to train the transferred aides to do the work of higher-level library assistants, which in effect would begin the director’s reorganization plan while the union and city officials were still debating the matter. 

Gates-Williams said she and other aides were not opposed to learning the additional tasks, but she said the reorganization plan won’t work. 

Griffin said that the aides were not being asked to do anything outside of their job classifications. 

“We essentially moved four library aides from the first floor [of the central library] to the fourth floor,” she said. “Their job duties remain the same and their classifications remain the same.” 

Griffin said in recent months, due to staffing shortages, she has transferred six other aides from the central library to the branches. 

“Moving four aides from one floor to another doesn’t seem like an unfair labor practice to me,” she said. “I’m baffled.”›