San Mateo County Superior Court granted a temporary restraining order Friday (July 15), blocking the layoff of Atherton town workers until a court hearing is held.
The town of Atherton had planned to lay off six employees Friday as part of its plan to outsource the building and planning departments.
The layoffs were challenged in court by Teamsters Union Local 856 under a section of state government code that the union says makes it illegal for the town to outsource the jobs it has targeted, according to union spokesman Peter Finn.
A court hearing on the issue is set for Aug. 11.
The outsourcing plan involved 13 town employees. In addition to the six layoffs, one employee has retired and another resigned. Five public works maintenance employees received job extensions through Aug. 31.
"We knew going into this hearing that this (granting a temporary restraining order) was always a possibility for the Judge to maintain the status quo so he can have more time to consider the law," interim city manager John Danielson said in an email. "We of course will respect the decision and have already asked the affected employees to return to work on their normal work schedules."
One former council member, Malcolm Dudley, 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."