DETROIT (WWJ) – Major changes coming to Detroit’s water department will reduce staff by 80 percent.

A five-year restructuring plan calls for the department to go from 1,978 employees to an estimated 374. And, when needed, they will use another 300 or so contractors.

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“The ultimate goal is to decrease the increase in water rates,” said Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, in announcing the plan on Wednesday. “In other words, we’re working to limit the annual increases to our water rates for everyone.”

Bing said they expect the plan to save the city around $100 million.

The plan also calls for adding technology and retraining some workers.

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James Fausone, chair of the recently seated Regional Water Board, said they’ll reduce staff through attrition and layoffs over the next five years.

“We’ll start with identifying job redesign and also looking out outsourcing opportunities. So, in that first six months we’ll see some change in the workforce because of those outsourcing opportunities,” Fausone said.

Bing said this is not a “union busting” move.

“From a union busting standpoint that’s the farthest thing away from my mind. What I’m focused on is making sure that we can deliver services at affordable rates,” Bing said.

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The union that represents Detroit water department employees has scheduled a protest for Thursday.