Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week announced a series of work rule changes, beginning the process that could lead to 625 layoffs to help erase red ink in the current city budget.

The measures are designed to eliminate a remaining $11 million shortfall in the current budget following the expiration of a furlough agreement with the city’s unions on June 30. The 2011 budget depended on those savings.

Emanuel earlier this month announced $20 million in savings by not filling some open positions and forming a partnership between the Department of Public Health and federally qualified health centers.

The mayor said he has proposed various work-rule changes to city unions that could stave off layoffs, but they have not replied. That led to his decision to announce the proposed changes, which could lead to about 625 layoffs.

They include privatizing custodial services at airports, libraries and benefits services, reducing the seasonal workforce at the Chicago Department of Transportation, and outsourcing the city’s water-bill call center.

“I pledged to close this shortfall and offer the city a balanced, realistic budget. Despite ongoing talks between union leaders and members of my administration, they have not embraced any of the needed changes,” Emanuel said.

City unions have countered that the mayor has made no attempt to negotiate work rule changes. The city is facing an estimated $700 million deficit in its next budget.

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