“Now the waterfront is alight with cranes and terminals, but the business hasn’t quite come,” he said. “To do all that build-up, they put themselves in rather severe debt. The problem now is not revenue, but that the debt is coming due.”


Oakland port to eliminate 100 jobs
Carolyn Said, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
The Port of Oakland is cutting 100 jobs, representing about 15 percent of all positions, in its biggest reduction in force in recent memory. The cuts, to take effect Aug. 29, affect 62 filled positions and 38 that were vacant because of a partial hiring freeze. “We’ve had a tremendous upset in the aviation industry which has impacted our airport operations,” said port spokeswoman Libby Schaaf. “Consumer spending is down; the dollar is weak, that has also really impacted imports at the seaport. It’s been a prudent decision to adjust to the economic realities.” Port revenue is growing more slowly than anticipated; at the same time, debt payments are increasing for bonds that paid for past capital improvements. Most of the reductions will be made by reining in the port’s capital improvement program, such as suspending plans to build a third terminal at Oakland International Airport. The airport soon will have lost six carriers this year as Aloha, ATA and Skybus all went bankrupt and Continental, American and Taca (an El Salvador airline) have ceased or plan to cease operations there shortly. “We’re projecting a 20 percent reduction in passenger seats next year and a 14 percent reduction in passengers,” Schaaf said. Affected employees will be notified Aug. 15. Most port employees are represented by unions, so bumping and reversion rights will come into play, which may slightly affect the exact number of reductions, Schaaf said. The port will cut 47 jobs from its 92-position engineering department and lop another 46 slots from its 176-job support staff, Schaaf said. Only seven positions will be cut from the maritime, aviation and commercial real estate divisions. Bob Britton, a senior representative for Professional & Technical Engineers Local 21, which represents about 160 workers at the port, said he thinks the planned reductions are short-sighted. “We’re not understanding how they can possibly get the work done that remains,” he said. Britton charged that the port is paying the price for “very bad decisions” made almost a decade ago, such as the Addition 2000 plan, when it invested in new cranes – the ones that barely squeaked in under the Golden Gate Bridge. “Now the waterfront is alight with cranes and terminals, but the business hasn’t quite come,” he said. “To do all that build-up, they put themselves in rather severe debt. The problem now is not revenue, but that the debt is coming due.

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