Atherton management is waiting until the close of business today to lay off six employees as its city attorney argues against a lawsuit filed in San Mateo Superior Court by union representatives.
According to spokesman Peter Finn, the Teamsters Union Local 856 challenged the layoffs under a section of state government code that it says makes it illegal for the town to outsource the jobs it has targeted, and has asked the court for a temporary restraining order preventing layoffs until the case concludes.
"We want to be respectful of the judge, who will hear the temporary restraining order request around 2 this afternoon, so layoffs will occur at the end of the business day," said Interim City Manager John Danielson.
The six employees include three from the building department, one from finance, one from administration, and one pending retirement, also from building, Mr. Danielson said. The town had one other retirement and one resignation in recent months. Finally, five public works maintenance employees received job extensions through Aug. 31.
One former official, Malcolm Dudley, who served as Atherton's mayor, challenged whether the town's finances were in such dire straits as to require layoffs. By his calculations, the $856,000 budget deficit could be solved through union concessions, building department revenues, and restoring rentals of town properties such as the pavilion.
"To me the motivation for calling this a 'crisis' is clear. They want to justify their action as something that is forced upon them because of circumstances. My feeling is that there are two major reasons driving this action. It reflects a strong anti-union sentiment and a strong preference for outsourcing over in-house employment," Mr. Dudley said.
Mr. Danielson responded that no matter what someone calls it, the town spends more than it takes in. Even by outsourcing the positions now in jeopardy, city management will still need to seek concessions from both union and non-union employees going forward to be sustainable, he said. "I don't want to lay off anyone in this town again."