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EMRB hands county union a win

Clark County employees who lost out on raises when the county froze wage increases due to a new state labor law should get them, the state’s Employee-Management Relations Board decided Tuesday.

The decision is a major win for the Service Employees International Union Local 1107, which filed a complaint with the EMRB after the county froze wage increases for SEIU-affiliated employees in June.

At the time, the county said that because of Senate Bill 241, which became law this year, it couldn’t give raises to employees with its largest union because the contract expired in 2013. But the SEIU Local 1107, which represents more than 4,000 county employees, argued the contract was to continue on an annual basis during contract negotiations. The county and SEIU started negotiations in 2013 and didn’t reach a new contract until late August through arbitration.

The EMRB’s decision sided with the union’s argument, finding that the contract’s one-year period had started on July 1, 2014, and the county’s action in June came before it expired.

“The board ruled that according to the terms of SB 241, SB 241 doesn’t apply to a given union contract until that contract either renews or becomes a new contract,” said Bruce Snyder, commissioner of the state board. That decision was 2-1, with board member Sandra Masters dissenting, Snyder said.

Different employees were impacted differently by the frozen raises, which employees get on their anniversary. For example, about 274 employees a month lost their merit pay increases during the nearly three-month period. The freeze stopped after the county and SEIU got a new contract.

“The EMRB has a very creative reading of the law,” County Manager Don Burnette said, adding that he’s waiting to comment further until the written decision is issued.

The board also said the county had improperly ended paid union leave for county employees who do union business. The county had ordered then-union president Martin Bassick to return to work, citing provisions in the new law that require either reimbursement or a financial concession for union work done on county time.

“The board ruled that again the county jumped the gun because that contract was still in effect until the end of June,” Snyder said.

Under the decision, the county must put back on the books any vacation time or other leave that Bassick and union officials used to do SEIU business.

Union officials were unavailable for comment, but tweeted out the news Tuesday.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1

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