WASHINGTON Aug 11 Detroit's largest union said
on Monday that the city's historic bankruptcy proceedings have
given the management of the water and sewer department
opportunities to disrupt bargaining units and strip union
members of job protections.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees Michigan Council 25 filed a motion late Monday to
clarify or lift an automatic court stay on litigation against
Detroit during the bankruptcy process.
The state's employment commission, which settles labor
disputes, has decided against holding hearings regarding the
city until after the bankruptcy process is concluded. But AFSCME
is pressing for the commission to hear two complaints that it
filed against the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department sooner
than that. The union contends that the stay applies only to
those seeking monetary judgments.
DWSD representatives could not be reached after business
hours for comment.
The hearing to confirm Detroit's plan to exit bankruptcy is
scheduled to begin at the end of the month and is expected to
run at least for part of September. AFSCME's members support the
plan, which includes cuts to their pensions.
Some AFSCME units are negotiating new contracts with DWSD,
and "talks have not progressed well," the union said in the
Specifically, AFSCME said the DWSD is placing 380 out of
the 1,050 workers it represents at the department in other
unions, which the union says is intended to disrupt bargaining
and is illegal.
AFSCME also said many of its members are being placed in
positions deemed "at will," meaning they could lose their jobs
without just cause.
The union emphasized its complaints were separate from the
bankruptcy case and it "does not need to pursue collection
against the city without further order of this court, or until
the resolution of the bankruptcy proceedings."
Detroit has faced a rocky time with its water and sewer
department since it filed for bankruptcy in July 2013.
Last week, the city rushed to turn on the taps again after
it cut off service to 7,200 delinquent bill payers, raising an
international outcry. At the same time, water and sewer
bondholders have been some of the biggest holdout creditors in
the bankruptcy, and reached a settlement refinancing their debt
with the city only last week.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Jan Paschal)