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Peoria Employee Unions Balk At Prospect of Layoffs During COVID-19 Crisis

The Peoria City Council voted 9-1 to approve the construction of 30 new houses in the East Bluff neighborhood.
Jeff Smudde
The Peoria City Council voted 9-1 to approve the construction of 30 new houses in the East Bluff neighborhood.

Unionized Peoria city employees were notified Wednesday of potential layoffs as the city seeks to plug a $31 million hole in this year's budget created by COVID-19's economic fallout.

Anders Lindall is a spokesman for AFSCME Council 31. The local chapter represents 200 employees with the city, Peoria Public Library, Civic Center, and Peoria Housing Authority.

"Most of them are on the job today, serving their community, responding in this crisis, and the thanks they get should not be a pink slip," he said, noting AFSCME represents Peoria's emergency telecommunicators and police department clerical staff.

Lindall said the COVID-19 pandemic isn't the fault of city employees or administrators.

"Rather than threatening the jobs and livelihoods of city workers on the front lines, leadership of the city should be joining with us and all the unions in calling on Congress," he said.

The only federal funding promised to the city so far is $1.7 million in Community Development Block Grants to seed a Small Business Assistance Grant fund. That money hasn't arrived yet.

Peoria Firefighters Local 50 called the layoff notices "grossly concerning."

"I highly doubt any department is going to be immune, but I think it would be premature for myself to discuss anything because nothing specific has come out," said Peoria Fire Chief Tony Ardis.

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said it's "too early to tell" which employees may be impacted.

"Obviously, all of our employees are essential, really. I mean, we're really thin. But if it came down to a decision we have to make in the next week or so, it'd be very unlikely that it would be the first responders on the police and fire [departments]," the mayor said.

Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said last Tuesday a 20 percent workforce reduction would be the equivalent of laying off every city employee not with the police or fire departments. A 70 percent city workforce reduction would be needed to fill the budget hole with job cuts alone.

Urich said salary and headcount reductions will be necessary, but guidance from the council is needed on where to make those cuts.

The Peoria City Council meets this coming Tuesday to continue budget discussions. Other options on the table include delaying capital improvements or short-term borrowing, using city property as collateral.

You can listen to the meeting live on 89.9 FM or WCBU.org at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WCBU will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WCBU can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.


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Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.