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Can a city lay off strikers at any point?

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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If the public-services strike had continued, the city workers could not have been fired for striking. “Not for striking. They have a right to do that,” said Sheila Van Zandt, the city of Lincoln’s human resources analyst, on Friday. “It’s a protected activity and that they are striking in the manner they are doing is protected.” The News Messenger asked Van Zandt and Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep if the city could decide, after six months of a strike, to fire public-services employees since contracted workers are providing their services. On Oct. 25, the City Council approved labor contracts of up to $547,000 for four months to provide city services by contracting out the work. Contract employees were immediately hired when the strike began on Sept. 14. Van Zandt deferred to Estep for a comment. “These questions really relate to legal issues, and given that we are involved in a current labor dispute, I’ve been advised that it is unwise to comment publicly on legal issues,” Estep said. “I can say that, although we are providing necessary services to the community through alternate means as efficiently as we can, the city remains hopeful that the striking employees will return to their jobs soon.” The strikers returned to their jobs Monday. See the adjacent story for more information. James Britton, business representative for Local 39, said Friday, that “at some point,” the city could lay the workers off but that “it wouldn’t make much sense to work without them for six months and lay them off.” “If anything, not getting rid of them and trying to work with contract employees for six months indicates that they are holding firm on their position (with the Last, Best, and Final Offer),” Britton said. “The only time lay-offs would apply is if they have lack of work or lack of funds.” Britton said the city could lay off striking workers during the strike “if there was an economic reason.”