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Published: Thursday, 11/13/2008

Unions promise legal action over Toledo shutdown

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Some of the city of Toledo's unions are promising legal action next week to block Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's planned three-day governmental shutdown to help reduce a potential $10 million general fund deficit for 2008.

"On Monday, we will be filing a request for a temporary restraining order against the three-day shutdown," said Don Czerniak, president of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7.

The union leader, who represents about 900 Toledo city employees, said the mayor's plan to temporarily lay off all nonessential employees on Nov. 26, Dec. 26, and Dec. 31 violates their contract.

The mayor wants all nonemergency city departments to shut down in order to save $1 million - $300,000 of which would apply to the general operating fund. He ordered the shutdown after learning Chicago Mayor Richard Daley had the same plan to help plug that city's massive deficit.

Tom Kroma, Mr. Finkbeiner's assistant chief of staff, said the city would "act accordingly" if the unions filed a TRO request and declined further comment.

Alan Cox, president of AFSCME Local 2058, said city workers would have been more amicable regarding the proposal had the mayor handled it differently.

"We certainly would have gone to our membership - and just three days before the mayor dropped his bomb, we met with [the mayor's staff] about voluntary furloughs and there were a modest number of members willing to do that," Mr. Cox said. "It's either a layoff or a lockout, and either one violates our contracts."

Local 2058 represents about 230 city of Toledo supervisory, professional, and technical em-ployees who work in most city departments.

The city has been locked in contentious negotiations with AFSCME Local 7 since its contract expired on June 30.

The union is set to vote on the city's "best and final" offer on Dec. 17, Mr. Czerniak said.

"We couldn't come to terms, and they gave us this final offer," he said.

Neither side yesterday would discuss terms of the proposed contract.

Toledo City Councilman George Sarantou steered clear of the city-union conflicts.

"As a member of council, according to the charter, I am not supposed to get involved in labor issues, but I hope both sides can work it out," Mr. Sarantou said. "We have to make cuts and money must be saved with a deficit looming in 2009."

The threat of legal action occurs just days before Mr. Finkbeiner must release the 2009 general operating budget - which is expected to reflect deep cuts in many city services in order to slash $23 million in proposed spending.

"It's going to be painful, I am sure," Toledo City Council President Mark Sobczak said.

Mayor Finkbeiner, who spent most of yesterday in closed- door meetings regarding the 2009 budget, is expected to announce some details of the spending plan tomorrow.

The mayor is required by charter to issue a budget estimate by Nov. 15 each year.

Council must vote on the general fund budget by March 31.

City Finance Director John Sherburne said the city would have higher personnel and medical costs in 2009 and lower income tax revenue than this year because of increasing unemployment.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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