Judge orders Detroit water system employees back to work

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Monday a judge ordered Detroit Water Department employees back to work.

This came after Detroit Water Department management is firing back at striking employees, calling their actions illegal and threatening suspension and termination for workers who walked off the job.

In a statement released Sunday evening spokesperson Mary Alfonso said officials are hoping that a judge ends the strike quickly.

"The City of Detroit Water Department filed a motion on Friday seeking an injunction to prevent any type of employee work stoppage. We hope a hearing will take place (Monday) to avoid any further illegal work stoppage," Alfonso said.

Local 207 President John Riehl, who represents the workers on strike, says more than 900 staffers have agreed to the stoppage.

But in the statement from water department management Alfonso claimed it was only 30 workers who walked off the job, not 900.

Riehl says his members authorized a strike to protest Mayor Dave Bing's plan to downsize the department, which includes layoffs of most of the department's 2,000 workers. The plan also calls for outsourcing many of the positions to a private contractor.

"Judge Cox is acting as DWSD's head of labor relations, completely beyond the bounds of the Clean Water Act and then claiming that he can simultaneously act as an impartial judge over DWSD's conduct in relation to this strike. This is a huge overreach, making a mockery of any form of democratic protections for the rights of workers to bargain collectively,"said Riehl in a statement.

Like most other city workers DPW staffers are also facing a 10-percent pay cut.

Detroit's water and sewage system serves approximately 4-million people in southeast Michigan.

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Full Statement From Water Department:

The City of Detroit Water Department filed a motion on Friday seeking an injunction to prevent any type of employee work stoppage. We hope a hearing will take place tomorrow to avoid any further illegal work stoppage. Today's action appears to be an isolated event and does not appear to be wide spread throughout the AFSCME Union. The 30 or so members who simply walked off their jobs today will be subject to suspension that could ultimately lead to their termination.

Mary P. Alfonso
Public Affairs Manager
Detroit Water and Sewerage

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