THE BLOG
05/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Citigroup Plans to Lay Off A Third Of Cleaning Force While Taking Bailout Money

Just two weeks after Sam Stein first reported Citigroup's anti-union assault on the Employee Free Choice Act, the financial behemoth is taking their fight directly to the workers. Citigroup plans a second round of layoffs to their cleaning force -- a move that would displace over one-third of their cleaning force for six New York City properties.

As the recipient of a $50 billion tax-payer bailout, Citigroup has come under fire for its corporate spending practices, including a planned $10 million renovation of corporate office suites and a $7.7 million bonus for embattled CEO Vikram Pandit. In laying off these 107 workers, Citi's total savings amount to just over $6.5 million, substantially less than either of those elective expenditures.

In response to the expected layoffs, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) brought a proposal to Citi on Monday. The proposal calls for cutting the number of layoffs and including severance pay and COBRA health insurance to alleviate the impact on those who will become unemployed.

The move pits Citgroup -- who recently hosted a conference call to galvanize opposition to the pro-labor Employee Free Choice Act and who downgraded its assessment of Wal-Mart in response to the retailer's overture to unions -- against 32BJ SEIU, the largest property service worker union in the country.

"We were disappointed, to say the least, when they came to us with this," said Matthew Nerzig, a spokesman for 32BJ SEIU. "After reviewing the occupancy of these buildings, we see no justifiable reason for laying off a third of their workforce. It's out of proportion with what's needed and crosses the line of decency and fairness."

Citigroup refused to comment for this story and referred calls to Cushman & Wakefield, the property management company contracted by Citi. Cushman & Wakefield released a statement saying, "We are engaged in good faith negotiations with SEIU Local 32BJ and are working on a solution that will be responsive to market conditions and the issues raised by the union. We have and continue to comply with both the spirit and letter of the current bargaining agreement and hope to resolve the matter to everyone's satisfaction."

Nerzig and SEIU put the blame squarely on Citi's shoulders. "Building owners, and not their agents, decide these matters. And in this case, it's Citibank that is pulling the strings," Nerzig responded.