Supreme Court lifts ban on firefighter layoffs
December 31, 2014
The Nevada Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision issued Wednesday, lifted the injunction preventing Reno from laying off 32 firefighters.
The layoffs were ordered in May after the federal government refused to renew the grant that funded those positions.
But the International Association of Firefighters went to court arguing the city had to submit the issue to binding arbitration. The union charged an arbitrator should decide whether or not the city had the money to pay the salaries of those firemen. Union lawyers argued the city actually did have the money and, therefore, should be barred from firing the 32.
District Judge Lidia Stiglich agreed with the union and issued an injunction barring the layoffs pending the results of arbitration on the issue.
The Supreme Court reversed Stiglich's order and lifted the injunction writing the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the city and firemen exempts layoffs based on a lack of money from arbitration.
"We conclude that by its language reserving the non-negotiable right, Article 2 of the CBA exempts the city's layoff decision due to lack of funds from arbitration," the justices wrote.
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Reno was joined in the appeal by city and county officials around the state — including Carson City and Douglas County — all of whom expressed concerns about the potential impact the district court ruling could have on all local government employers in the state.
The opinion states an arbitrator has no jurisdiction to resolve disputes over a bargaining agreement outside the terms of the contract itself.
In the Reno case, the court concluded management rights such as the power to reduce staff for lack of work or money "are not in the scope of mandatory bargaining and which are reserved to the local government employer without negotiation."
The language in that agreement, they said, "contains forceful evidence that the matter of budget-related layoffs is excluded form bargaining and is, therefore, not subject to arbitration."
The opinion states that power is "reserved to the local government employer without negotiation by law."
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