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Union Wins Bittersweet Battle Over County Layoffs | News

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Union Wins Bittersweet Battle Over County Layoffs
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LAS VEGAS -- A Clark County workers union cried foul over the layoff of 19 senior employees in 2009, saying they should have been spared because of their seniority. Now, a board agrees, ruling Clark County must rehire them and give nearly $1.8 million in back pay.

The union says it is a win-lose situation. The ruling means senior workers will get their jobs back, but because of it, others will likely be laid off to offset the cost of the awarded money that the county simply doesn't have.

"We have a voice and our voice says we have a contract and we want to hold you to it," said Service Employees International Union President Al Martinez. "The county made an error. They didn't follow the contract on the procedures for the layoff and we called them on it."

The Employee Management Relations Board voted two to one in the union's favor. Now the county must rehire and cut somewhere else.

"Not only are the 19 going to have to be let go, whether its 25 or 30 or 35, are going to have to be let go to make up that difference," said Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak.

The county is also ordered to give the 19 workers nearly $1.8 million in lost wages. A huge amount that Sisolak says the county doesn't have.

"It's not like we have a reserve fund that we can write this check out of and pay them. It's going to have to come out of our budget and more employees are going to have to be let go to make up for that money," said Sisolak.

The move by the board affects employees in the Development Services Department, including surveyors, inspectors, and others.

The economy caused a halt in construction projects, so Sisolak says it made sense to cut those positions at the time, taking into account workload not seniority.

Martinez says the union contract requires that senior employees should be the last to go unless the county can prove a newer worker is more valuable. But the EMRB ruled that wasn't the case in this situation.

"It's a difficult policy. What we need to do is come up with a simpler, cleaner way to know that if in fact we have to terminate someone, that this is how its done," said Sisolak.

The county hasn't officially said if it plans to appeal the board's decision, but Sisolak says it will likely stand. Commissioners will now have to decide who to keep and what to cut to make up the money.

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