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Unfair labor practice charge under review

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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The unfair labor practice charge filed by Local 39 on Oct. 5 is under review by the Public Employment Relations Board. According to previous News Messenger reports, the charge was filed because City Council did not vote on a tentative labor agreement for the city’s public-services classified staff, Local 39 International Union of Operating Engineers. 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 the City Council on Sept. 13, according to previous News Messenger reports. 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 directed city staff to go back to the negotiating table. According to the labor charge filed with the Public Employment Relations Board, the city “acted in bad faith by failing to formally consider a tentative agreement arrived at in good faith.” “The refusal to vote is an act of petty retaliation because members of the bargaining unit at least twice rejected proposed tentative agreements,” reads the charge. Les Chisholm, division chief for the Public Employment Relations Board, said the charge is “currently pending review.” The charge has been assigned to general accounting staff office, Chisholm said, who will “examine the charge, the information provided by it as well as any response that the other party has.” “What we are doing at the initial review stage is determining what the charge states and if it’s what is known as a prima facie case,” Chisholm said. The board is looking to see if “the facts alleged by the charging party (are found) to be true,” according to Chisholm. If prima facie is found, Chisholm said the board would set up a settlement conference “to help the parties come up with a solution.” “If we don’t find that a charge states sufficient fact to demonstrate a violation of the act and the charging party is unable to amend the charge, the charge is dismissed,” Chisholm said. The city responded to the charge on Oct. 21 with a position statement. The “city was acting in good faith,” according to the position statement, and the city’s “duty to bargain in good faith ended for this bargaining cycle” when the Last, Best and Final Offer was reached. “Once the City Council voted to impose the Last, Best and Final Offer, we were done with negotiating,” City Manager Jim Estep said Monday when asked about the charge. “We did meet to solve the labor dispute but the City Council was under no obligation to act on anything, since we were no longer undergoing negotiations. The News Messenger made repeated phone calls this week to Local 39 business representative James Britton and Local 39 director of public employees Joan Bryant, asking for their comments about the charge. Those phone calls were not returned as of press time.