Unfair labor practice charge to be decided May 11

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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A March 15 hearing was held between the city of Lincoln and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39 to discuss the union’s unfair labor practice charge. The city and Local 39 have until May 11 to “submit written briefs arguing their position,” said Les Chisholm, the state’s Public Employment Relations Board division chief. “Once the record is closed, including any briefs filed, the administrative judge would issue a written proposed decision,” Chisholm said. “There is no decision at this point.” City Manager Jim Estep said that “both sides presented facts and opinions” during the hearing. The News Messenger received an anonymous tip reporting that the city had lost the claim and had to pay money to the union. “There is no truth to that,” Estep said. “We won’t know anything until sometime after the May 11 deadline for final briefs.” Attempts to reach Local 39 for a comment were unsuccessful, as of press time. Local 39 filed the charge with the Public Employment Relations Board against the city of Lincoln on Oct. 5, 2011, according to previous News Messenger reports. The board issued a complaint on Nov. 23, 2011 in response to the charge. The charge stems from an incident while the city’s public services employees were on strike from Sept. 14 to Oct. 30 2011, according to previous News Messenger reports. The employees were on strike because they disagreed with changes made to their health-care benefits in a Last, Best and Final Offer adopted by the City Council on Sept. 13. On Sept. 19, 2011, a tentative agreement between Local 39 and the city was brought forward to the City Council. The council did not vote yes or no 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 Public Employment Relations 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.