Warwick to layoff up to 50 workers amid COVID-19 pandemic
WARWICK, RI (WLNE) – The City of Warwick will be laying off up to 50 employees following discussions between Mayor Joseph Solomon and Union Local 1651.
With the anticipated loss in revenue due to COVID-19, Mayor Solomon offered Union Local 1651 a proposal to forego the scheduled pay raise, saying this would help avoid layoffs. The Union, according to the City of Warwick, told Mayor Solomon they preferred a layoff.
Mayor Solomon said it would not be fair to ask taxpayers to pay for raises, “it is just not feasible or fair to our taxpayers.” He said “Our economy has been turned upside down by this pandemic, and we must pitch in together to get our community through this crisis. I thought that a compromise was the best solution for our taxpayers, as well as for our Union employees and their families.”
The Union’s decision is “not a decision I would have made, as I do not want to add any of our employees to Rhode Island’s already skyrocketing unemployment lists” says the Mayor. He continued, “I conveyed the available options to the Union and told them I would abide by their decision.”
The City of Warwick will lay off up to 50 employees to help balance its budget, as current projections show a revenue decline as much as 33% in the coming year based off the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau’s numbers.
In an interview with ABC 6 Solomon said the biggest hit will come from the tourism industry, as restaurants, hotels, and the airport are ghost towns because of the pandemic.
“Decline in revenue in our upcoming budget and that’s our tourism industry. We anticipate we are going to lose approximately $5 million in the upcoming fiscal cycle,” he said . “This was probably one of the most difficult choices I’ve made.”
According to Solomon, he met with union leaders last week and requested that they forego a 2.75 percent salary increase so that everyone could keep the job for the meantime.
“I was kind of taken back when I found out that’s not the route they took. But I am executing based on their wishes and based on their vote,” he said.
With these layoffs, Solomon expects it to save the city around $1.6 million. The city will still have to foot the bill when workers file for unemployment, as he said the money saved comes from things such as health benefits.
“I believe it’s two thirds we’re responsible for until unemployment runs out,” he said.
These workers range from DPW to recreation and does not include police or fire.
“We’re trying to take the best alternative that would have the least impact on the services provided to the general public.”
However, the mayor said that if things continue to get worse on a local or national level, there could be a “phase two” which could potentially lead to more layoffs.
Multiple calls to Local 1651 were not immediately returned on Wednesday.