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Mayor rips furlough ruling

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Mayor Carty Finkbeiner called on unions to compromise 'and be a little less hung up on every procedural move.'

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday vowed to fight an arbitrator's ruling that blocked his effort to furlough city workers for three days to save an estimated $300,000.

An attorney for one of the unions said such appeals rarely succeed, and claimed that the effort would cost taxpayer money that could be better used elsewhere.

Also yesterday, Mr. Finkbeiner announced a weeklong furlough of nonessential city workers starting Feb. 16.

The mayor said he disagreed with Monday's decision by arbitrator Robert Stein, who ruled the three one-day furloughs - Nov. 26, Dec. 26, and Dec. 31 - violated city contracts with American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Locals 7 and 2058 and International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 20.

Mr. Stein wrote that while Toledo's financial deficit is real and it has the right to lay off workers, temporary layoffs violated the unions' contracts.

The mayor criticized the city unions that fought the furlough plan and said short furloughs taken by large numbers of city workers would reduce the need to permanently lay off other employees. "It is clear that our city unions do not yet understand the severity of the economic crisis facing the country," Mr. Finkbeiner said. He called on the unions to "compromise a little bit and be a little less hung up on every procedural move."

Mr. Stein ordered the city to make whole the 105 union members who were given a one-day unpaid furlough Nov. 26.

The 82 nonunion workers who were furloughed the same day - such as commissioners and directors who are not members of a union - will not be compensated.

And those individuals will get three more unpaid furlough days over the next two weeks - Friday, Dec. 31, and Jan. 2.

The administration said it could save $100,000 a day by shutting down all nonessential services.

It was not clear whether the five-day furlough planned for Feb. 16 will meet the arbitrator's standard.

The mayor said the February shutdown will apply to up to 1,000 people, excluding police officers, firefighters, and essential employees at the water treatment plant and the water reclamation plant, and possibly refuse collectors.

The city faces a $12 million deficit in the current year, and has $6 million left in its rainy-day fund.

In his comments, Mr. Finkbeiner referred to Mr. Stein as "the Columbus arbitrator." He acknowledged that Mr. Stein was selected by both parties in the case, including Toledo's law department.

"In the future, we will do our best to get someone more familiar with the situation we have here," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

John Roca, a lawyer for the Teamsters, predicted that the city's appeal of the arbitrator's award would fail.

"The standard to vacate an arbitration award is virtually insurmountable," Mr. Roca said. "It's too bad the mayor wants to go that route, because it seems like an expenditure on legal fees that could probably be put to better use."

Mr. Roca also disputed the allegation that the unions don't appreciate the severity of the city's funding problems.

"I just don't think that the city has been forthcoming in terms of trying to work those out. This particular issue never came up until" the mayor publicly announced the mandatory layoffs, Mr. Roca said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.

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