Costa Mesa layoffs

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(CNS) – A panel of appellate court justices in Santa Ana today affirmed a lower court‘s ruling halting Costa Mesa officials from outsourcing  city jobs to private companies, a move that has sparked a legal battle with union leaders.

The justices upheld Orange County Superior Court Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann’s ruling on a preliminary injunction in favor of the Costa Mesa City Employees‘ Association.

The details of the appellate court’s ruling were not immediately available as the panel only announced it has affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

The city’s workers “can sleep better tonight,” union spokeswoman Jennifer Muir said.

City officials also are asking voters in November to approve a measure that would make Costa Mesa a charter city, giving them more authority to implement labor rules. As it stands, the city must abide by state laws governing labor, such as the state’s rules on setting prevailing wages.

“They don’t like what they’re hearing from the court so they want to rewrite the rules to suit their own agenda,” Muir said of the charter city measure. “And their legal bills for all of this are in the millions of dollars. They’re allowing the taxpayers to cover the bill for their ideological agenda.”

City officials have been dealt several setbacks in their jousting with union leaders in the effort to privatize many city jobs.

In March of last year, 213 city employees were given layoff notices, effective in six months. That’s more than 40 percent of the city’s workforce.

One of those employees, 29-year-old city mechanic Huy Pham, jumped to his death from the top of City Hall after receiving a layoff notice.

City officials wanted to outsource jobs to save money from rising pension costs and other expenses. The layoff notices, officials said, was a way to abide by the city’s collective bargaining agreement with the union.

The union sued to stop the city from outsourcing jobs, arguing it violated its collective bargaining agreement with workers and that it violated state laws governing privatization of public positions.

The charter city designation would allow city officials to bypass some of those state laws, but when the city tried to get the issue on the June primary ballot they missed the filing deadline. That led to another lawsuit, which the city also lost.

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