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Published: Thursday, 2/26/2009

Toledo, firefighters OK plan to arbitrate manning issue

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Attorneys for the city and Toledo firefighters union Local 92 agreed to arbitrate their differences over a city plan to reduce the daily line complement from 103 to 99.

Both sides were scheduled yesterday afternoon to argue the merits of a restraining order preventing the city from executing the proposal.

Jim Martin, Local 92 president, said attorneys for both sides will ask the federal mediation service to draft a list of nine candidates to arbitrate the issue, with the aim of resolving the matter within 60 days.

Mr. Martin said both sides will pare the list until they can agree on an arbitrator to hear the matter.

"This matter doesn't belong in the courts," Mr. Martin asserted.

"We should be taking it through the grievance procedure, and that's what we're going to do."

City Law Director Adam Loukx said the city agreed the issue's proper venue was before an arbitrator, "but it was the union that decided to take it to court."

Common Pleas Judge Linda Jennings granted a temporary restraining order Feb. 13, preventing the city from advancing the plan to trim firefighter line strength from the contract-mandated 103 a day to 99.

The request for the temporary order occurred less than 24 hours after Mayor Carty Finkbeiner announced intentions of removing a ladder truck from service as a way to trim the city's $14 million 2009 deficit.

In its original complaint, the union claimed a reduction in the daily number of working firefighters would both violate the union's contract and create a safety issue for firefighters and city residents. The union also accused the city of refusing to timely arbitration of the union's grievance opposing the change.

Mr. Loukx has said the issue was not a matter of safety but instead of money. He defended the city's side at the mid-February hearing, saying the city was in dire straits financially.



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