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Published: Friday, 3/17/2006

Lack of contract irks safety forces

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Two of Toledo's police and fire unions went public this week that they have been working without contracts since the beginning of the year.

Toledo Firefighters Local 92 had "Always on the frontline, 75 days without a contract" on its billboard on the Erie Street side of its downtown office on Washington Street yesterday. The day before, the sign read, "74 days without a contract, Thanks Toledo."

"We were trying to get some attention from city officials who have not put our contract negotiations in the forefront," President Jim Martin said, adding the union hasn't heard from anyone within the city administration.

The Toledo Police Patrolman's Association posted on its Web site, "No Contract 75 Days Thanks Carty!"

TPPA and Local 92 will continue to update the number of days their members are working without a contract.

Officers with both unions and the Toledo Police Command Officers Association said they want to talk with the city about new contracts, meetings they said have occurred only a handful of times since negotiations began in October. The unions' three-year contracts expired Dec. 31.

"It's been frustrating. It's been very slow," said Terry Stewart, TPCOA president. "We haven't really got to [sticking points] yet. We've had so few meetings."

TPPA president Gregg Harris agreed, saying, "It's a slap in the face to each woman and man in the department to not sit down and talk."

Bob Reinbolt, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's chief of staff, said, "We do not comment on ongoing contract negotiations."

Union leaders said they are in various stages of selecting fact finders, conciliators, and hearing dates.

The city's 2006 proposed budget assumes a 1.5 percent pay increase for all city workers this year, based on an agreement approved in September with the city's largest union, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7.

City Council has not approved the budget, but is required to do so before March 31.

Police and fire union leaders declined to discuss specifics of their negotiations, but said the 6.5 percent pay raise over three years approved by Local 7 is not acceptable.

"We accepted substandard wages last time," said Mr. Martin, who added the union recognized the city's economic situation at that time.

In their last contracts, the unions accepted an 18-month wage freeze followed by two annual 2 percent raises and a 1 percent lump sum payment last year.

"We need to be well compensated this time," Mr. Harris said. "The city, the state, the country is improving. The economy is moving forward."

Police officers and firefighters who are not in command jobs earn about $51,000 a year.

The city also is negotiating with its other employee unions: Toledo Fire Chiefs Association, Teamsters Local 20, and AFSCME Local 2058.

Blade staff writer Tom Troy contributed to this report.

Contact Christina Hall at:

chall@theblade.com

or 419-724-6007.



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