A group of San Luis Obispo employees attempting to sever ties with its existing union and form a new bargaining group has filed a claim against the city alleging unfair labor practices after its request was denied.
The fledging group of about 60 utility workers, known as the San Luis Obispo Utility Service Employees Association, asked for formal recognition by the city in September 2011 but was denied one month later.
The group, consisting mainly of workers at the city’s water and wastewater departments, wants to negotiate its own wages, hours and working conditions.
SLOUSA, represented by labor attorney Ralph Royds of Long Beach, has now filed a claim against the city through the state’s Public Employment Relations Board, which oversees the labor agreement process with cities.
Royds said the group’s desire to split from the San Luis Obispo City Employees Association, which represents 147 workers, is based on the premise that its members believe they have a distinct work culture with diverse interests.
The city says workers are fairly represented in their current union.
The city’s rules give the city control over the recognition of new employee bargaining groups.
The city is drafting a response to the claim, and PERB will decide whether a complaint will be filed against the city.
This is the second charge filed against the city in recent months. An unfair labor practice complaint against the city was recently filed on behalf of the city’s police union.
“We were surprised and disappointed by the new charge by the utilities employees,” City Attorney Christine Dietrick said in an email.
Dietrick added that the city believed denying the request was “based on thoughtful and fair consideration of the facts and factors required to be considered.”
This is the first time that an employee group has tried to sever ties with its bargaining group, said Monica Irons, human resources director.
The city, until this week, had five bargaining groups representing police, fire and general employees. The city announced Tuesday that one of the smaller groups, the Fire Department’s battalion chiefs, would merge with the larger fire union.
“If we got into a proliferation of units and had a large number of small groups bargaining, it would mean that we would have employees working side by side on the same project that could have very different wages,” Irons said.
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