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Published: Wednesday, 7/2/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

CITY APPROVAL

Council OKs contract with municipal employees

Union gives up pension contribution, gets raises

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Waniewski Waniewski
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Toledo City Council has approved a new three-year contract with the largest municipal union that eliminates the 3 percent employee share of pension contributions the city has been paying, but grants yearly 1.5 percent raises.

Council voted 11-1 Tuesday to approve the contract with members of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7, who approved the contract by a 70 percent margin last week.

Councilman Tom Waniewski voted no.

“They got a raise already four months ago and it sets the pace for, I think, difficult financial negotiations down the road,” Mr. Waniewski said. “We don’t have the money to offer these raises.”

Mr. Waniewski also took umbrage with sick time provisions of the contract.

“They get two months of sick time and I think it’s convoluted and nothing that you would see in the private sector ... and it can cost the city a lot down the road,” he said.

In March, the Collins administration negotiated a wage reopener that gave Local 7 workers a 2.5 percent raise retroactive to Jan. 1, that will cost taxpayers an extra $1.4 million this year. The last AFSCME Local 7 contract, passed in 2011, froze wages for the first two years and shifted medical and pension costs to employees.

The pay increases in the new three-year agreement will cost the city $300,000 a year, although only $40,000 of that comes from the city’s general fund. The elimination of the pension pickup will save the city $400,000 for the rest of 2014 and $800,000 annually.

The average Local 7 salary is $39,400, and 70 percent of Local 7 workers are in the Department of Public Utilities, where they staff the water treatment plants and operate trucks and other equipment to repair water and sewer lines, Finance Director George Sarantou said. The remaining 30 percent are in general-fund services and work mowing boulevards, parks, and cemeteries, and removing snow and leaves.

In other business, a divided council voted 8-4 to outsource management of the city’s composting operations by settling a lawsuit with composting-business Clean Wood Recycling Inc. and selling a $336,300 compost turner purchased last year. Councilmen Steven Steel, Mike Craig, Jack Ford, and Theresa Gabriel voted against the settlement.

Clean Wood Recycling sued the city in 2012 for breach of its 2008-10 leaf-collection contract. Its claim was based on the city’s failure to deliver leaves to the company in the second year of the contract. The firm claimed losses based on lost “tipping” fees from leaves the city did not drop off and from improvements it made to its Stickney Avenue facility in anticipation of getting the city’s leaves.

Under the deal, the company will get $147,000 a year for its work, and the city will pay up to $300,000 for site improvements and buying a new compost turner. The new equipment would be city-owned and American-made, Mayor Collins said.

Dave Welch, streets, bridges, and harbor commissioner said the $336,300 compost turner purchased last year under the Bell administration was used for a total of just 13 hours.

Council Tuesday also approved $150,000 to fix the leaky roof of the city-owned Erie Street Market and repair its geothermal heating and cooling system. It also approved a lease agreement with Sustainable Local Foods, a produce grower, to operate a controlled-environment greenhouse in two of three empty bays at the Erie Street Market. The building, on Erie Street in the Warehouse District, also is being studied by Lucky’s Market for a Toledo location.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.



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