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Labor dispute conference today

Former city strikers filed unfair labor practice charge
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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The city of Lincoln and Local 39 are scheduled to meet for an informal conference this morning to potentially resolve a labor dispute. The meeting will take place at 10 a.m. at the Public Employment Relations Board’s Sacramento office. The conference is being held because of an unfair practice complaint issued by the board on Nov. 23, according to previous News Messenger reports. Les Chisholm, division chief for the Public Employment Relations Board, said the goal of a settlement conference “is to resolve the dispute.” “Resolution of the dispute would involve withdrawal of the charge,” Chisholm said. The complaint was issued in response to the Oct. 5 filing of an unfair labor practice charge against the city by the Local 39 International Union of Operating Engineers. The city’s classified employees are represented by Local 39 and the charge was filed because City Council did not vote on a tentative labor agreement for the city’s public-services classified staff, according to previous News Messenger reports. Public-services employees were on strike from Sept. 14 to Oct. 30 because they disagreed with changes made to their health care in a Last, Best, and Final Offer implemented by City Council on Sept. 13. During that time, a tentative agreement was ratified by the labor group on Sept. 19 and brought before City Council on Sept. 27. The council did not vote on the agreement but directed city staff to go back to the negotiating table, according to previous News Messenger reports. According to the complaint filed by the board, the city “failed and refused to meet and confer in good faith” with Local 39 and “committed an unfair practice” by not taking action on the tentative agreement. Mayor Spencer Short would not comment when asked what he hoped the outcome of the conference would be. “While we cannot comment on an ongoing litigation, our hope is that it ends as of that day,” Short said. City Manager Jim Estep said this is the first informal conference he has ever attended. “I think it’s going to help clarify some of the facts versus some of the perceptions of what happened,” Estep said. While the complaint says that City Council didn’t take action on the tentative agreement, Estep said the council did take action when they “directed staff to keep meeting” for negotiations. “The outcome I’m really hoping for is that the complaint is dismissed and we start the bargaining process all over again,” Estep said. “We’ll be starting that (negotiations) this month.” Joan Bryant, Local 39’s Director of Public Employees, would also not comment when asked for what outcome she hoped for as a result of the conference. “We will see what the city comes with and respond appropriately,” Bryant said. “I don’t have any prediction one way or another, other than we are going to participate and work diligently to see if there is a way to reach resolution.”