As many as 29 Wichita parks maintenance workers will begin taking eight weeks of furlough — or unpaid leave — starting with one week this month.
The move was foreshadowed in an agreement between the Service Employees International Union and the city last summer when the city sought to privatize park maintenance to shore up its budget.
The agreement saved some parks employees their jobs.
It also said they may have to take up to eight weeks of unpaid leave, though it was unclear at the time whether the furloughs would actually happen.
"We knew it could come," said Harold Schlechtweg, the union's business representative. "We were hoping it wouldn't."
Doug Kupper, director of the city's parks and recreation department, said the contracts to privatize parks mowing will likely save the city $1.8 million — or about $640,000 more than expected.
Parks officials have told employees the furloughs are still necessary because of projected budget shortfalls this year.
Kupper said the furlough schedules haven't been finalized. Workers probably will be split into two groups so not everyone is gone at once and city athletic fields are maintained, he said.
Some workers' schedules indicate the furloughs will come in one week spans roughly twice a month this spring.
Employees will be able to collect unemployment as long as they agree to return to work when scheduled furloughs are over, Kupper said. But, he said, they will not have to be on call.
Typically, those getting unemployment benefits must prove they're at least looking for a job.
When someone is on furlough, however, they need only agree to come back to their current job when they're called in after the furlough period is over, said Kathy Toelkes, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Labor.