SCRANTON, PA – In the event of payless paydays for Scranton city government, the police, firefighters and public work employees would still work, their union presidents said Tuesday.
“Our guys will absolutely be there,” said John Judge, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 60.
Bob Martin, president of Fraternal Order of Police E.B. Jermyn Lodge 2, said, “Police are going to show up. They’re not going to leave the city unprotected. I can assure you, whatever the outcome is, the city will not go unprotected.”
And Sam Vitris, president of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 2305 that represents DPW workers, added, “We’ll still be working. There will be no cut in services. We’re there until as long as it takes. Our members would be instructed to continue to show up for work until the problem passes.”
Eileen Hurchick, president of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 2462 that represents clerical workers, declined to comment.
The possibility of payless paydays is looming over the next few weeks unless the city is able to come up with an infusion of funds to fill a $16 million budget gap, administration officials have said.
The city was trying to secure financing to keep the city afloat for the rest of the year, but it fell through on Friday when the Scranton Parking Authority defaulted on a debt. The bank that was going to issue bonds for city financing pulled out of that deal after the City Council Thursday voted against covering an unrelated SPA debt, even though the city backed that SPA debt.
City paydays come every two weeks, and enough funds are on hand to meet the next payday, which is Friday, administration officials said. After that, however, it remains to be seen whether there would be enough funds to meet the June 22 payroll, officials have said.
The specter of payless paydays has not been uncommon in the city during at least the past 20 years, according to Times-Tribune archives, and it has been a fairly regular occurrence at the end of each budget year, Mr. Martin said.
“Just about every year, there were threats of payless paydays, because the budget was running out of money,” Mr. Martin said.
Mr. Vitris recalled that once, more than a decade ago before Chris Doherty was mayor, a payday was missed on a Friday, but the paychecks were issued the following Monday. Mr. Vitris recalled that situation had not created a huge stir.
All three union chiefs expressed faith that the mayor and council would somehow pull the city back from the brink.
“It’s another bump in the road, but we’ll get past this, too. We know the money will eventually come,” Mr. Judge said. “I’m fairly confident city leaders will get this thing straightened out.”
Mr. Martin said, “I don’t know if it’s going to come to that (payless paydays). I’m pretty sure they’re going to work this out. Somehow, they’re going to work through this.”
Mr. Vitris said, “I think they’ll get it resolved. We’ve just got to hope they come up with the right answers to get this thing resolved as soon as possible.”
Mr. Martin also said that it would not necessarily behoove wary banks to abandon the city, because payless paydays likely would translate into a good number of employees missing mortgage or vehicle payments.
Of such a chain reaction, Mr. Martin said, “I’m watching these dominoes fall as I’m talking.”