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Published: Tuesday, 12/23/2008

Arbitrator tells Toledo to pay employees for 1-day furlough

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

The city of Toledo will have to pay at least 105 unionized city workers who were forced to take a one-day, unpaid furlough because the city violated its collective bargaining agreements, an arbitrator ruled yesterday.

Arbitrator Robert Stein ruled in response to complaints from three city unions that Mayor Carty Finkbeiner didn't have the power to order three, one-day furloughs. One of those layoffs occurred Nov. 26, and the other two were planned for Friday and Dec. 31.

The Finkbeiner administration reacted by announcing yesterday that 15 additional city employees will be laid off.

"While there is no question the city must look for immediate ways to cut expenses while attempting to maintain vital services, it is obligated to adhere to the layoff procedures it has, in good faith, negotiated with its unions," the arbitrator said.

Mr. Finkbeiner said he was disappointed with the ruling. He said three days of furloughs could have saved the city $400,000.

"Unfortunately, the city will now have to add to the 45 layoffs already scheduled. That is a shame, particularly if you're one of those being laid off. This did not have to occur," the mayor said.

He did not indicate whether the arbitrator's ruling will be appealed.

The furloughs were to involve 1,200 employees. Because the unions sued, the number of affected employees was reduced to about 242, and ended up being even fewer than that.

Theresa Gabriel, the assistant chief of staff in charge of human resources, said 105 union and 82 exempt personnel ended up losing a day's pay on Nov. 26. The union members are due to be repaid in 30 days.

The complaint was brought by American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Locals 7 and 2058 and Teamsters Local 20.

Don Czerniak, Local 7's president, said the union is willing to help the city, but said the furloughs and layoffs are "always the same people."

Asked if he was suggesting the police and fire unions, whose members make up the rest of the city's unionized general-fund work force, should be made to share in the proposed layoffs and furloughs, Mr. Czerniak did not reply.

"You can only eliminate the work force so much," Mr. Czerniak said. He said the ultimate alternative is private trash pickup, and snow and leaf removal - services the unions maintain will cost more if they came from the private sector.

According to the arbitrator's narrative, the subject of "voluntary furloughs" came up at a meeting between city and union officials on Oct. 20, but no mention was made of mandatory furloughs.

Three days later, the mayor announced his plan for mandatory furloughs.

Mr. Finkbeiner quoted, with approval, Mr. Stein's ruling: "If there was ever a time when the city and its unions needed to act in unison, while honoring the collective bargaining agreements that define their relationship, it is during the current downturn faced by the city of Toledo."

The mayor said the city is studying Mr. Stein's opinion. He said temporary one-day layoffs are being used by Chicago and the state of California.

Ms. Gabriel said about 15 additional layoffs will be necessary. The administration announced two weeks ago it would lay off 45 city employees. Ms. Gabriel said 30 of those layoffs were avoided through eliminating vacant positions and other cost savings, so only 15 actual layoff notices were sent.

In the past, people laid off from jobs in the general fund budget usually found positions in assessed services or utility divisions, which are not affected by the city's slumping income tax revenues.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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