By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The interim chief of the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) may soon be embroiled in a battle with local trades unions.
He plans to lay off more than 300 unionized workers who have been with PHA for years, though not technically on staff.
Interim PHA director Kelvin Jeremiah says at month’s end he plans to lay off 335 “provisional workers.”
Provisional workers are supposed to be temporary, working three-to-nine months at a time.
But Jeremiah says since the tenure if previous PHA chief Carl Greene they have been permanent. Eliminating provisional workers will end what Jeremiah says are excessive payments to the unions for fringe benefits.
“In one year we would save over ten million dollars. Ten million dollars, that’s extra money that we have been paying to the unions that we wouldn’t otherwise have paid if they had been PHA employees in the first place. We have to be better stewards of the public dollars,” Jeremiah says.
The laid off workers will get to apply for actual PHA jobs, but would have to meet city residency requirements, and only 225 positions will be opened.
The head of the local Building Trades Council, Pat Gillespie, tells KYW Newsradio he hopes to meet with Jeremiah in hopes of saving the program and he doubts the level of savings predicted by the PHA chief.
Gillespie says the layoffs would also jeopardize a companion internship program that he says has brought many minorities and women into union ranks.