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City to furlough 80 part-time workers

About 80 part-time city workers will be furloughed for 60 days to deal with anticipated financial constraints resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, Suffolk City Manager Patrick Roberts confirmed Wednesday.

“We anticipate it to be 60 days,” Roberts said of the furloughs. “Ideally that could be shorter. Worst case scenario, that could be (longer), based on how the public health emergency evolves.”

Those who work for Suffolk Public Library, the Parks and Recreation department and tourism offices such as the Suffolk Seaboard Railroad Museum and the Visitor’s Center were most affected by the furloughs, Roberts said. Those being furloughed were being notified this week.

“I did direct the Human Resources Department to look at any segment of our workforce that we would see a need to reduce, proactively, to constrain spending,” Roberts said, “but also in those area where the employees have just been inhibited from doing their work because their work really requires interaction with the public, or where they perform some back office function in support of public interaction.”

While some employees have been able to cross-train and shift from one department to another, that has only been possible on a limited basis. He cited an example of a Human Resources employee going to work for the city’s Public Works Department.

Roberts said he would be monitoring the situation on a weekly basis to determine when those employees could return to work.

He said the city could save as much as $200,000 as a result of the furloughs.

The city has been able, Roberts said, to maximize the use of technology for employees to work remotely, in alternate shifts and working in the field to achieve social distancing and allow its work to continue.