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Mayor wants contract rejected

The Finkbeiner administration has asked Toledo City Council to reject a fact-finder's report on a contract for eight supervisors in the Toledo Municipal Court clerk's office because it does not conform to a city goal that would require all municipal employees to co-pay for their health insurance premiums.

But while council had voted, 10-2, on Feb. 12 to reject a tentative contract with the same terms that fact-finder Martin Fitts recommended in a May 9 report, council President Mark Sobczak responded yesterday that he won't schedule the special meeting that Robert Reinbolt, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's chief of staff, said must be held by Monday to keep Mr. Fitts' recommendations from taking effect.

Sending the contract to binding arbitration would cost more in legal expenses than the maximum $5,280 that premium co-payment would save the city budget, Mr. Sobczak said, and "the majority of council do not want to throw good money after bad chasing this down."

Mr. Reinbolt said the matter of principle involved was worth defending, even at net cost to the city, because otherwise the administration's campaign to require premium co-payment from the city's entire work force will be undermined.

"Every contract that comes up, we think it's appropriate to have a co-pay," he said. "It's the precedent-setting here that we have a problem with."

Other terms of the three-year contract proposal between the municipal court and Local 12 - including raises of 1.5 percent, 2 percent, and 3 percent in 2008, 2009, and 2010, respectively - were not disputed before the fact-finder.

Those raises match the percentage increases that members of other city labor unions received in their most recent contracts.

The agreement reached between the union and court negotiators included an understanding that once members of the court's other labor union, Local 3411 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, begin co-paying insurance premiums on the city's scale, Local 12's would too.

Vallie Bowman-English, the municipal court clerk, said yesterday that Local 12 had "really done their fair share" by agreeing to such a "reverse me-too" provision, because in the cycle of city labor contracts, its eight courthouse members are "always playing catch-up" to receive citywide pay increases.

"I was really shocked by it," Ms. Bowman-English said of Mr. Reinbolt's letter asking council to reject the recommendations. "I do believe the fact-finder's report, as well as the contract, is reasonable and fair."

While Ms. Bowman-English is an independently elected official, her office's budget relies on city funding.

Councilman D. Michael Collins said that once council rejected the contract in February, the court clerk should have adopted council's position about the need to require co-payment now, rather than when Local 3411's next contract is negotiated.

The court's contract with Local 3411's 76 members expires at the end of 2009.

By testifying in support of the contract as submitted to council in February, Mr. Collins said, "the municipal court defeated the purpose of fact-finding."

So far, two small city unions - the Toledo Fire Chiefs Association and AFSCME Local 2058, representing city supervisors - have premium co-payments in their contracts as the result of earlier fact-finders' reports.

AFSCME Local 7, representing 850 city workers, is next up in negotiations, with its contract scheduled to expire in December.

Mr. Sobczak said council "absolutely" will insist on premium co-payment in the next rounds of negotiations. "Local 7 starts the new cycle for us," he said.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.

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