Some worry their job could be next
Recently the City of Salem contracted out printing services to Oregon State University in Corvallis and closed the inside printing services, citing the expense of maintaining the City’s aging printing press and the cost of buying a new one. A new printing press would cost the City about $250,000. As a result, two employees were laid off and another accepted a demotion to remain employed by the City.
While not many employees were affected by this decision, Randy Ridderbusch, President of the local Council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said this is a trend.
“The City has made it clear that if they can outsource jobs to save money they will,” Ridderbusch said. “Not only that, a lot of jobs are being moved into non-represented services.”
While there is no specific city policy regarding outsourcing, both Mayor Janet Taylor and City Manager Bob Wells agree that when it will save taxpayers’ dollars it is something the City Manager considers.
“We owe the taxpayers the best service at the best price. We decide this on a case by case basis,” Wells said.
Both Taylor and Wells said that some services such as Fire and Police would never be outsourced, but the City’s ambulance service and now the printing operations have been.
In phasing out inside printing services the City did not choose a local printing company. A few years ago City Council considered an ordinance giving “local preference” or priority to local businesses seeking contracts with the City but according to Wells staff legal analysis concluded that such an ordinance violated state law.
Mayor Taylor said that she would have preferred that the printing contract was awarded to a local entity, “but then we may see a Salem company be the low bidder on some work for a Corvallis company or Corvallis city government in the future. It works both ways.”
Another concern for the union is the growth of management relative to the jobs created for employees and staff.
“Right now there is one manager for every three employees. There are too many managers,” Ridderbusch said. “Employee growth has matched the rate of growth for the city overall but the percentage of managers has tripled. The percentage is terrible and getting worse.”
AFSCME will be entering into negotiations for new contracts with the City in January. Ridderbusch said that union representatives are starting to make these complaints known before negotiations begin.
“Whether the threat of outsourcing is true or not, the fear is real. If there are employee complaints or problems, employees are afraid their job will be outsourced,” Ridderbusch said. “I have more people say to me they are afraid to talk. It’s a matter of respect and having people treated like they count.”