Union win could bring layoffs in North Las Vegas

If the public safety unions win their battle against the city of North Las Vegas, there will be layoffs, the city manager told the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s editorial board on Friday.

City Manager Tim Hacker said that besides the 85 who are losing their jobs when the city closes its jail, another 80 employees would be laid off if the unions win. They would come from within the police and fire departments, he said.

“Unfortunately, it would require layoffs to keep the budget balanced,” he said.

It is unlikely to happen any time soon, however.

A resolution passed earlier this month giving Hacker the power to suspend portions of union contracts that deal with pay raises and other benefits goes into effect Sunday.

He said he will immediately exercise the power the resolution gives him.

Unions representing firefighters, police officers and police supervisors have all filed legal paperwork trying to stop Hacker from doing so.

But the process could take a year or more.

In the meantime, the resolution will remain in effect.

“This is a no-brainer. We will prevail,” said Jeff Hurley, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1607, which represents the city’s firefighters. “And I think they know it.”

The battle has been brewing for years, heating up in the past several months as city officials looked for ways to pass a balanced budget for the next fiscal year, which starts Sunday.

Over the past several years, unions have given in to the city’s requests for concessions, largely giving up raises and other benefits.

But this year, the unions balked.

“We’re tired of giving back every single time,” said Mike Yarter, president of the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association.

In response, the council passed a sweeping resolution, using an obscure state law designed for emergencies. The law, which allows collective bargaining agreements to be suspended during riots and civil unrest, has never been used for what city officials call a financial emergency.

All three unions have protested. Although it’s unlikely the layoffs would include supervisors, the Police Supervisors Association filed a lawsuit in Clark County District Court seeking a judge’s order to stop the city from enforcing the resolution.

“The supervisors are protecting only the supervisors,” said Leonard Cardinale, president of the North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association.

He called Hacker’s assertion that a union win would mean layoffs “just another scare tactic.”

Hurley, from the firefighters union, said the department is already so short-staffed the city is on the verge of being unsafe. The department cannot afford layoffs, he said.

He said the firefighters have agreed to accept the city’s demand for no raises but only if the city would guarantee that no one would be laid off.

Hacker will not make that promise. He has said making promises about the future is one way the city got in the mess it is in now.

Hurley said firefighters already are leaving the department voluntarily. There is a wave of anger in the department, he said, and he worries about recruiting new firefighters when the need arises.

Even so, he said, firefighters will not stage a “sick-out,” similar to what jail staff did earlier this month in protest.

“Nooo,” Hurley said. “Heck no.”

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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