Labor board sides with unions in pay dispute with city of North Las Vegas

North Las Vegas does not have the authority to suspend millions of dollars in long-sought union employee pay raises, officials with the state Employee Management Relations Board decided Wednesday.

The state labor board ruling, set for official release Monday, disputes the city’s right to suspend $25 million in union pay raises under a city-declared “fiscal emergency” in June 2012.

Labor board spokeswoman Terri Williams confirmed board members made up their minds on the topic Wednesday afternoon, just a day after hearing testimony on the topic from union and city leaders.

“The board met yesterday to take up the issue of what constitutes an emergency under (Nevada Revised Statute) 288.150,” Williams said. “They determined a financial emergency does not fall under the statute.”

The labor board decision echoes a 2-month-old Clark County District Court ruling that determined the city pay freezes were “not a valid exercise of (the city’s) police power” in the absence of a riot or natural disaster.

It came as little surprise to North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association President Leonard Cardinale, who urged city leaders not to forget the decision back at the bargaining table.

“The EMRB got it right and the city needs to look (at) settling rather than fighting, because fighting is costing the taxpayers at least $1.5 million a month, not including millions in outside counsel,” Cardinale said. “It’s starting to cost them more to fight than to pay, so it must not be about money.”

State labor board members are expected to rule on whether the pay freezes constituted an unfair labor practice on April 22.

Cardinale, who represents the smallest of three public safety unions involved in the yearslong contract dispute, said it is within the board’s authority to rule on damages already awarded under Judge Susan Johnson’s Jan. 21 opinion on the city pay freezes.

Board officials declined further comment on the ruling’s fiscal or legal ramifications.

Representatives from North Las Vegas’ two largest public safety unions also declined to comment on the ruling until its official release.

City officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Contact reporter James DeHaven at jdehaven@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3839. Follow him on Twitter at @JamesDeHaven.