Members of a union representing 16 Atherton employees authorized a strike yesterday (July 5) after town negotiators, union representatives and a state mediator failed to reach an agreement after about 10 hours of talks regarding the town's plan to lay off 13 employees and outsource public works and building department services.
Peter Finn of Teamsters Union Local 856 said he is meeting with the employees at noon today (Wednesday) to decide "where to go from here." He said 92 percent of the membership gave the union the green light to call a strike.
Interim City Manager John Danielson said he is respecting the state mediator's request that details of the talks remain confidential, but acknowledged that the mediator found the two parties at an impasse.
The town handed out pink slips to 13 employees in late May, to be effective June 30. But after the union offered employee concessions to help eliminate the budget's estimated $856,000 structural deficit, the town delayed the effective date of the layoffs until July 15.
Soon after the town announced the layoff and outsourcing plan, employees offered about 12 percent in concessions, which represented about $167,000 in savings to the town, but on June 9 increased proposed concessions to about $300,000 in savings, according to Mr. Finn.
Mr. Danielson said this morning that the union must give notice before a strike begins, and that he hadn't received such a notice. Employees have shown up for work, although "the staffing for the building department has been really spotty the past couple of weeks," he said.
Although he wouldn't characterize the absences as a slowdown -- a strategy used at times by represented employees dissatisfied with the progress of labor talks -- he noted that yesterday morning before negotiations began, "no one showed up in the building department" to staff the front counter. The town had to call in substitute help from the private firm that employs the current interim building official, Mr. Danielson said.