Clark County District Judge Jim Crockett granted a “Motion to Compel Arbitration” requested by Teamsters Union #14 in its dispute with the City of Mesquite over a pay clause in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement for M-1, M-2, and non-supervisory public employees during a hearing held Jan. 26. 

“We are disappointed and disagree with the ruling,” City Attorney Bob Sweetin told the Mesquite Local News Thursday, Jan. 28. “We don’t think the ruling is correct. We’ll see what happens from here.” 

Grant Davis, Vice President/Director of Operations, Teamsters Local #14, said he was pleased with the judge’s decision adding “I thought we had worked well with the city in the past. In fact, the ‘me too’ clause is proof that we tried to work with the city. It’s insulting now to negotiate something very different.” 

As first reported by the MLN on Jan. 14, the union and city have been in dispute over the rank-and-file employee contract since March 2015 based on a “me too” clause that says “if any other group receives any monetary gain in the negotiated collective bargaining agreements for 2013/14 – 2015/16, other than for a necessary job reclassification, an equal monetary gain shall be given to all employees subject to this Agreement.” 

The union contends that the clause kicked in when the city granted step increases for the Teamsters Union #14 Fire & Rescue Department and the Mesquite Police Officers Association union. The city argued back that the step increases did not constitute a wage increase, therefore, were not subject to the “me too” clause. Both sides had been prepared to plead their cases to an agreed-upon arbitrator in December 2015. 

However, the arbitrator canceled due to a medical situation. The city refused to negotiate on a new arbitrator and told the union to file a formal grievance instead. The union maintains it had already done so in March 2015. The union then filed a “Motion to Compel Arbitration” with the Clark County District Courts.

Sweetin said that “the city is looking at all its options” after the judge’s order and would not comment further.

Davis said the union wants two main points in the contract dispute arbitration: 1) pay increases will be retroactive to July 1, 2013 when the contract took effect; 2) step increases within the ranges granted to the Fire & Rescue employees and the police employees. He also wants the same disciplinary restrictions on step increases granted in the other contracts.

Step increases under the two existing contracts with Fire & Rescue and police call for a 4 percent increase for steps 2 through 4 and a 5 percent increase for steps 5 through 8. Employees are eligible for the step 2 increase upon completion of probation. Subsequent step increases come due on the anniversary date of hire annually thereafter. Davis said the starting pay and top-end pay for each position will not change.

The city and union had informally agreed that if any pay/step increases were granted to the rank-and-file employees they would be retroactive to July 1, 2014 and not the originating date of the contract one year earlier. Davis said that changed with the recent court actions and now arbitration.

Should the arbitrator rule in favor of the union and grant the step increases to the M-1, M-2 and nonsupervisory employees, the city will not only have to fund the extra monthly pay but it will also be on the hook for Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) contributions that include the increases. Currently that runs at 27.5 percent of each employee’s gross pay per year.

Davis said the union requested the judge to appoint an arbitrator during the hearing but was denied.

The city must construct an order for the court and return it within 10 days for the judge’s signature. From there it’s expected both sides will begin selecting an arbitrator. Actual negotiations will start based on the agreed-upon person’s availability. The process could take three to four months according to Sweetin.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Fire & Rescue Teamsters Union #14 and the city expires June 30 and Davis expects negotiations to begin in March. “We hope the animosity we’re experiencing with the rank-and-file employee bargaining won’t carry over to those negotiations,” he said.

The current contract with the rank-and-file is also due to expire June 30. Previously both the city and union had informally agreed to extend the contract one year to 2017. Neither side spoke to whether that agreement will remain.