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Published: Friday, 11/7/2003

Changes in schedule puzzle city workers


Some unionized municipal employees in Fostoria are questioning a city decision to change their work schedules next month.

Most workers in the water, sewer, street, and cemetery departments start between 6:30 and 7 a.m. and go home between 3 and 3:30 p.m.

But beginning Dec. 1, all of those employees, plus some clerical workers, will be scheduled to start at 8 a.m. and work until 5 p.m. They ll also be required to punch a time clock to document their hours.

Ralph Wise, the city s safety-service director, told leaders of Local 811 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees about the changes during a brief meeting Wednesday.

Mr. Wise said the new schedule will mean better service to city residents.

“We get a call, and somebody has a question about something, and let s say it s Friday at 3:15,” he said. “There is nobody there that can do it, answer the question, kick a manhole cover back on. We have to call somebody back in on overtime or tell the citizen, Sorry, you have to wait until Monday morning. ”

He said the time clocks will halt some employees practice of working less than their full eight-hour shift.

The city s contract with Local 811 allows him to change the employees schedule with 10 days notice, Mr. Wise said. Rick Whetsel, the union s president, agreed that the city can make the schedule and time-clock changes, but he expressed doubt that it would improve service.

“As far as the work being done, the work s still going to get done,” he said. “That s not going to stop. I don t know how it s going to affect the snow season. Usually, with the street department being in at 6:30, we re here two hours before the schools open.”

Mr. Wise said that police department command officers already have the power to call street employees to work early if streets need to be cleared of snow, and that won t change with the new schedule. He said the city has been forced to pay overtime in the past to plow streets for the afternoon rush hour.

Mr. Whetsel said his union s 42 members have a lot of questions about the schedule change but city officials have offered few answers.

“The union members are asking me questions I can t answer, because I have no answers to give them,” he said.

Mr. Whetsel said some employees wonder if the city is punishing the union for protesting layoffs that took place over the summer, and retaliating against some employees who opposed Mayor John Davoli s re-election.

“I hope not, because that s freedom of speech,” Mr. Whetsel said.

Union members picketed a council meeting earlier this fall to protest the layoffs, and some employees displayed yard signs backing Mr. Davoli s opponent in Tuesday s election, former Mayor Barbara Marley. Mr. Davoli won a second term easily.

Mr. Wise said the schedule change had nothing to do with the election or the workers protest of the layoffs.

“We re interested in doing what s best for the citizens of Fostoria,” he said. “I didn t even know who had whose signs in whose yards.”

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