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Published: Sunday, 1/23/2005

Workers, turnpike to renew dialogue

BLADE STAFF
A motorist takes a ticket from a dispenser at the Strongsville interchange of the Ohio Turnpike. If workers strike, the turnpike will charge flat rates for cars, trucks, and big rigs. A motorist takes a ticket from a dispenser at the Strongsville interchange of the Ohio Turnpike. If workers strike, the turnpike will charge flat rates for cars, trucks, and big rigs.
TONY DEJAK / AP Enlarge

BEREA, Ohio - Negotiations between the Ohio Turnpike and a Teamsters local representing toll collectors and maintenance workers will resume at 3 p.m. today in Strongsville, Ohio.

The meeting was ordered by the State Employee Relations Board after talks broke off Friday.

Teamsters Local 436 representatives have said turnpike workers intend to strike at

12:01 a.m. tomorrow if there is no settlement.

"We're naturally hopeful for a settlement," said Rick Kepler of Local 436.

Lauren Dehrmann, a turnpike spokesman, said: "The turnpike hopes what we've hoped all along - that we can reach an agreement that is fair to the workers and fair to the consumers who use the turnpike and fair and fiscally responsible to the turnpike commission."

Local 436 represents nearly 1,000 maintenance workers and toll collectors on the 241-mile turnpike. The contract between the local and the turnpike expired Dec. 31. An extension expired on Monday.

Negotiations have stalled over whether full-time workers hired before the last contract will continue to receive fully paid health insurance.

A fact finder's proposed settlement satisfied neither party.

The turnpike commission accepted the findings. Local 436 members turned it down.

If workers strike, the turnpike will charge flat rate tolls ranging from 50 cents for passenger vehicles using Ready Toll or charge accounts to $1 for passenger vehicles paying with cash.

Small trucks and buses will pay $5; large trucks will pay $10.

The turnpike will post hourly updates of negotiations, starting at 3 p.m. today, on its Web site: www.ohioturnpike.org.



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