- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A county workers union is suing Douglas County to block an outsourcing plan aimed at lowering costs at an Omaha hospital.

The Employees United Labor Association, which represents employees at the Douglas County Health Center, argues the plan is more about undermining the union than saving money. The group filed a lawsuit Thursday in Douglas County District Court, seeking an injunction and temporary restraining order to halt layoffs.

Douglas County’s administrator and county board chairwoman declined to comment to the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/10v6sUB ) on active litigation.

Douglas County has looked for ways to decrease the $12 million annual operating subsidy to Douglas County Health Center. County officials are following a consultant’s recommendation to reduce costs, which include outsourcing certain tasks.

In September, the County Board awarded a company a $365,000 contract to handle the center’s laundry. The move eliminated seven union jobs.

Other union employees also face losing their jobs, including workers who answer county switchboard calls.

Using an automated phone system instead of people taking calls and answering questions on the switchboard could harm public safety, the union said in the suit. They say people with suicidal thoughts often call the line and noted that earlier this year, a “frantic caller” called the switchboard with a tip about Nikko Jenkins, who was later convicted of killing four people.

The union claims outsourcing the county switchboard wasn’t part of the consultant’s recommendations, calling it a move that shows the county’s “animosity” toward the union.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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