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Published: Tuesday, 9/13/2005

Toledo's largest labor union ratifies 3-year pay raise pact

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Members of the city of Toledo's largest labor union ratified a new agreement yesterday that raises wages 6.5 percent over the next three years.

The deal with American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7 is set to go to City Council for approval next Tuesday.

Don Czerniak, president of Local 7, said more than 700 members voted at the UAW hall on Ashland Avenue after a meeting to review the 44-page agreement. He said the vote was about 2-1 in favor.

"[The members] knew it would be a tough contract because of the economic situation of the city," he said. "I think the members did well, and I think the city did well."

The agreement calls for Local 7's approximately 840 members to receive wage increases of 1.5 percent Jan. 1, 2006, 2 percent Jan. 1, 2007, and 3 percent Jan. 1, 2008, said Jim Burkhardt, the city's chief labor lawyer.

The agreement also includes some higher medical co-pays, including an increase from $10 to $15 for doctor's office visits, and from $25 to $65 for emergency room visits.

Mayor Jack Ford, who faces voters today in a primary election, called the package "modest."

"It does increase a little bit, but I think in the totality of the circumstances it is a fair package and I appreciate the bargaining on both sides," Mr. Ford said.

Local 7's contract is the first of seven union agreements that come up for bargaining every three years. Its wages usually set the standard for the other unions, but any additional wages bargained by other unions would be paid to Local 7 members as well.

Mr. Czerniak said he didn't think the agreement would affect the outcome of today's primary election.

Mr. Burkhardt said the mayor did not try to influence the timing of the contract. "We've been working toward a deal for many weeks and it finally came together," Mr. Burkhardt said.

Local 7 is made up of labor, clerical, technical, and semi-professional workers, including heavy equipment operators, water treatment plant operators, clerical and support staff, and inspectors.

Positions vary from data entry clerk, for which the salary would increase from $26,618 a year to $27,017 in the first year, to staff accountant, for which the salary would increase from $49,527 to $50,269, according to Tom Crothers, chief of staff and finance director for the city.

He said that the city can afford the wage increase because the city's revenues appear to be on the rebound.

"We've said we believe we're starting to turn the corner," Mr. Crothers said. He said that putting the highest increase at the end of the contract "allows us a little extra time to get things rocking and rolling."

Yet to come are agreements with police and fire unions, Teamsters, and management employees. In all, the city has 2,900 unionized workers.

Based on current employment levels, and assuming other city unions adopt the same wage agreement, the cost to the city would be $23 million over three years.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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