No Grievance, No Problem?
At the October 1 Council meeting, after my colleagues and I raised the issue of improprieties that occurred during the first round of layoffs, Mayor Gruendl engaged the City’s Executive Team to hear ‘their side’ of the story. The City Attorney stated that no grievances had been filed by the CEA administrative staff during the initial layoff process (note CEA is only one union group of the nine existing within the City); in response to which the Mayor implied if no grievance or labor practice complaint was filed, then there must have been no issue with the layoff procedures.
The idea of measuring the ‘correctness’ of layoff procedures by whether or not grievances were filed is absurd.
As laid out in our recap of the administrative layoffs (linked above), City employees were witnessing the new Executive Team targeting specific individuals by laying aside adopted personnel rules to enact favoritism. While some employees were rewarded with promotions and raises for demonstrating a ‘yes-man’ personality and not questioning management’s actions, most employees were experiencing a very different, extremely uncomfortable, environment. In this more common and negative environment, we wonder, what employee who needed his or her job would be willing to stir the pot by individually filing a grievance, an act equivalent to placing a target on their chest? It had become all too clear that those not willing to keep their heads down and mouths shut would find themselves in danger of being demoted, or even more devastating to their personal and family welfare, terminated from employment.
In light of the new round of layoff notices delivered last week, employees who have been impacted by improper layoff procedures may want to consider whether filing a grievance is now in their best interest. If we are to believe the Mayor, filing a grievance or labor practice complaint may be the only way the Executive Team will be held accountable.
Section 2.72 of the Municipal Code requires Council adoption of personnel rules, and states in part, “High morale shall be maintained by fair administration of this chapter and by every consideration of the rights and interests of employees consistent with the best interests of the public and the city.” Your Union Steward can provide you with additional information on the grievance process.
These back-room deals on layoffs, reclassifications, and promotions should cause concern to every Chico citizen. The Executive Team’s willingness to come up with a ‘legal’ work-around that violates the spirit of the Municipal Code and Administrative Policies and Procedures should send up a large red flag. This time, the victims were employees, but what could be next? Possibly a loophole to obtain a tax increase by calling it something else . . . perhaps a solid waste franchise fee levied on citizens via their garbage service bills?
Only time will tell. Remember, just because the government has the right to do something, does not make it the right thing to do.