Union praises commissioners for clarifying contract suspensions

Thu, Apr 9, 2020 (9:57 a.m.)

The Nevada chapter of Service Employees International Union is lauding the Clark County Commission for swiftly setting parameters of the suspension of the collective bargaining agreement between the union and county.

Clark County City Manager Yolanda King received backlash from union officials last week after suspending contracts to make the county more responsive to the coronavirus pandemic.

King said Gov. Steve Sisolak’s emergency declaration on COVID-19 authorizes the action, which prompted concerns by union leaders of potential layoffs and lack of protection of workers.

Since then, commissioners and union leaders have agreed on certain parameters to protect nearly 9,000 county employees — from front-line medical staffers at University Medical Center to firefighters and Family Services employees.

“Now, thousands of frontline healthcare and public sector workers can go to work with peace of mind that their wages, benefits and majority of their job protections are secure,” Brenda Marzan, president of the local SEIU chapter, said in a statement.

Parameters include protection for whistleblowers and for the Merit Personnel System to remain in place. Managers who abuse their positions or assert that an employee may be terminated without cause will also not be tolerated. 

Collective bargaining agreement provisions regarding layoffs will still be followed, regardless of the status of the suspension.

Labor-management committees can also continue to meet, provided social distancing protocols are followed.

Officials also made it clear that the union contract suspension is temporary, and the contract will be reinstated immediately after the governor’s emergency order has been lifted. 

Union leaders will continue to meet weekly with county commissioners, county staff and UMC to discuss workplace issues. 

“We had a really good meeting amongst the commissioners and senior staff, along with UMC and our council,” Commissioner Justin Jones said during a joint Zoom meeting between SEIU leaders and commissioners on Wednesday. “Regardless of the suspension, employee protections under the collective bargaining agreement for the most part remain in place.”

Jones reiterated that nothing during this “limited emergency” is intended to take away workers’ rights.

Any discussions relating to finances, payroll and layoffs will be “high-level” discussions within the Clark County Commission, emergency order or not, he said.

Commissioner Tick Segerblom apologized for the way SEIU leaders were notified about King’s decision.

“I don’t think there were any ill intentions,” he said. “People just weren’t really thinking it through as far as the impact this would have, particularly for these workers who are in this type of strife.” 

Union Executive Director Grace Vergara-Mactal thanked Jones and Segerblom for holding Clark County and UMC accountable.

“As soon as this pandemic began, SEIU’s top priority has been to work in partnership with all SEIU representatives and employers,” she said. “We understand that this is a crisis that is unprecedented, and it is going to take all of us working together to overcome COVID-19.”

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