Days after Rachel Morales learned that her clerical position at City College of San Francisco would be given to a civil servant with seniority, she couldn’t sleep or eat at the thought of being out of work.
Morales, who is a single mother and purchased a condominium last year, was left to wonder how she would make her mortgage payments. She even contemplated going on food stamps.
“I freaked out and didn’t know what to do,” said Morales, 38, who has worked with City College for three and a half years.
The city’s financial crisis, now bound to get worse with the announcement this week of a new deficit of nearly $500 million, is already taking a human toll on City College employees reeling from the changes imposed by a $20 million budget deficit.
There’s a hiring freeze and a salary freeze for some positions and cancellation of hundreds of classes.
In addition, there is the bump — and it’s no dance, but the process of civil service employees with higher rankings displacing others.
Clara Starr, human resources dean with City College, said that between 30 and 33 people at the college will be bumped from their positions. Some will be offered other jobs, while others will be placed on a “holdover” list where they can remain for up to five years. During that time, they will receive health benefits and have the opportunity to be placed in another civil service position within the city.
Bumping is the result of layoffs in the San Francisco’s Department of Public Health of nearly 500 employees, creating a ripple effect of displaced clerical workers. The health agency’s layoffs were made in response to this year’s $43 million budget cut to the department. To further complicate matters, some City College clerks will be placed in lower-paying positions at the health agency.
What it means at City College is that staff, faculty and administrators are dealing with a workflow disruption just as the college is gearing up for spring registrations.
It’s causing employees’ stress and anxiety levels to shoot through the roof as they watch their friends and colleagues being forced out of their positions, administrators said. It also has some wondering if their jobs will be next.
“There’s different reasons for the low morale,” said Hal Huntsman, president of the academic senate and math teacher at City College. He cited cutbacks in student programs, cancellation of courses, and salary freezes in addition to bumping of classified staff.
“We’re not in danger if we’re full-timers. But we could be, especially in fiscal year 2010-11,” Huntsman said.
And of the people now being displaced, he said, “We have good relations with them. We really feel a great sense of loss.”
The displacements not only hurt those employees losing their jobs, but are also creating emotional and psychological hardships for those that remain.
Some workers will have to pick up a larger workload, while others will be responsible for training newcomers in addition to performing their own duties.
Joselyn Caceres, 33, said she would take the last three days of work off because she didn’t “want to get all emotional at work.”
Carlota del Portillo, dean of the Mission campus, said six classified workers at the site will be displaced from their jobs: three in the main office, and one each in the counseling, career center and admissions offices.
“It’s stressing everyone,” said Omar Diaz, secretary for del Portillo. “Carlota del Portillo has a lot of stress.”
Diaz holds the highest level clerical position at City College, where he has worked in various departments for the past eight years. His extensive knowledge of requirements for credit and non-credit certificates, English as a Second Language levels and vocational programs makes him especially valuable, said del Portillo.
One of the many flaws of the civil service classification system, she said, is that the job descriptions are broad. Just because someone can use a computer doesn’t mean they meet the requirements to work at a college campus.
“What are we going to do during pre-registration when the [new] person needs to be trained in a particular computer software,” del Portillo said.
“He does a very specialized job here. I’m going to miss him terribly,” she said of Diaz, whom she called her right hand.
Diaz was offered a position at City College. He’s expected to take a nearly $10,000 pay cut.
“I feel lucky that I still have a job and that I have a partner who works full time,” Diaz said. “It’s worse for others.”
Caceres hasn’t been as lucky. She has yet to secure another position.
Still, she has been preparing for the displacement since being told in June that she would be bumped. That time, she said, the person coming to take her place changed her mind at the last minute.
“I was telling everyone ‘a lot of people are getting laid off. We better be prepared,’” Caceres said. As soon as her lease term ended, she and her partner moved in with her in-laws to save money. They also started to cut back on spending.
When she learned she would be bumped again, she said she would prepare for the future. Caceres plans to enroll in a photography program at City College.
While morale has taken a hit, Huntsman said, it doesn’t mean that City College employees aren’t working diligently to make sure they’re doing good work.
“It makes it very hard to do our jobs. Having said that, everybody’s working as hard as they can.”
As for 38-year-old Morales, she was recently offered a job with the City of San Francisco although she doesn’t know if she’s taking someone else’s work or if it’s a new position.
“When I got a letter from the human resources about a job offer, I accepted it. I faxed my paperwork and didn’t ask questions. At this point, it’s a job.”