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Employees union files unfair labor practice charge against the city of Solvang following lay-offs

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Posted at 11:54 PM, Mar 30, 2020

An employees union has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the city of Solvang following the laying off eight employees.

The city says however they have to do what they can to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, Solvang isn't the only Central Coast city taking these measures.

The City of San Luis Obispo reports Monday it has about 100 fewer employees than the did before the outbreak; this follows the city of Santa Barbara’s announcement Friday it's laying off 400 employees.

But it’s the eight employees formerly with Solvang who are now making the most noise.

The streets of Solvang are pretty empty these days, after the city says COVID-19 put a stop to tourism.

"We were having a wonderful season all through Christmas or what we call Yulefest. We had a great Valentine's Day period and then with COVID-19, everything shut down at the end of February," explained Chip Wullbrandt, City Attorney for the City of Solvang.

The lack of visitors means the lack of people staying at hotels and spending money within the city.

"So we have no income coming in from any of the tourist-related activities which is 60 percent of the city's budget. So we figure we're going to be losing about $500,000 a month towards a budget of about nine million dollars per year," Wullbrandt explained.

That's lead to the city making some cuts; eight city employees were deemed non-essential and laid off in a way their union says is against state labor laws.

The Teamsters Local 986 Union represents 7 of the 8 employees.

The positions that were laid off include the City Clerk, the Parks and Recreation Director and two other Parks and Recreation employees, a planning assistant, a building department assistant, and counter staff.

These employees were already on furlough as their departments are not open.

"The city went directly to these employees to get a signed agreement, which they've entitled the "Layoff Agreement" is where we take issue with," explained Jeff Lee, a Business Representative for Teamsters Local 986.

Because of this, the employees teamsters union says it’s filed an unfair labor practice charge with the California Public Employment Relations Board or PERB.

"PERB will send an board agent and make a determination as to whether Solvang violated employees rights based on California labor laws," Lee explained.

The city maintains however, its been fair and followed their memorandum of understanding with the union.

"It was very difficult -- some of those employees I've known for decades. We didn't make these decisions in spite or without giving very very careful consideration. We had to maintain essential services," Wullbrandt said.

Wullbrandt says the decrease in city staff has lead to an increased workload for many other employees.

It's unknown at this time if the employees who were let go can get their jobs back once everything returns to normal.

The city of San Luis Obispo says it is preparing to make some staffing decisions following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement from City Manager Derek Johnson he says in part:

We currently have roughly 100 less employees working today than prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
The temporary closure of city facilities and suspension of some city services, primarily in the parks and recreation and parking divisions had an immediate impact. A more comprehensive city-wide financial analysis is underway that will consider short and long term staffing needs, but in the interim, we are thankful we have a flexible workforce in the areas where we have experienced the most immediate decrease in demand.