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Published: Friday, 9/18/2009

Toledo library trustees, union in accord to save jobs

BY BRIDGET THARP
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo-Lucas County Public Library administrators threatened last month to eliminate 10 percent of the system's work force - layoffs that would be the worst in the institution's 171-year history.

Now, union concessions and early retirement incentives appear to have provided some relief for the library system's budget, which is strained by state budget cuts and waning tax revenue.

Thursday, the library board of trustees' personnel committee and the Association of Public Library Employees, one of two unions at the library, tentatively agreed to concessions that call for the layoff of one union worker and the shifting of as many as 25 full-time union librarians to part-time status.

The moves would save an estimated $388,000.

"If we would not have done anything, 14 librarians would have been without work," said David Lutz, the union's local co-president.

"We just want to make sure that we can maintain a good-quality level of service to the public and ensure that we weren't losing a generation of new library professionals."

Under the agreement, union members would split the cost of their 10 percent retirement contributions with their employer and would increase their monthly contribution for health care to $64.22 from $22.

The concessions also forfeit a universal 3 percent pay raise until next October and suspend the step increase, which is an additional pay boost tied to longevity on the job.

In exchange, the library will protect the seniority of librarians shifted to part-time status for up to two years, rather than just one as stated in the contract, and save the equivalent of six full-time jobs.

Union members agreed to the measures during a meeting in August, but details of the concessions were withheld by both sides until the personnel committee meeting yesterday.

"The APLE members going to these lengths to make these sacrifices on behalf of their fellow co-workers … people should understand how we pulled together to keep these positions," Mr. Lutz said.

His union represents 83 full-time and 11 part-time librarians and clerks, who are paid $15 to $30 an hour.

The concessions will not be official until the library trustees vote on the matter, which is expected during a regular board meeting Thursday at the Toledo Heights branch.

The library's financial difficulties stem from state budget cuts and declining local tax revenue. About $32.4 million - $7.4 million less than in 2008 - is expected in revenue for 2010.

The board must shave $3.1 million from its personnel budget for 2010. The personnel budget for 2009 was nearly $24 million.

The library administrators had estimated that the reduced budget would mean as many as 35 of their employees would be jobless by Oct. 4.

That's when the library system will slash branch hours to about eight a day and cut most branch operations to five days a week to help balance the budget.

"This doesn't look too bad, from the hatchet last month," Randy Clay, a library trustee, said during the personnel committee meeting yesterday.

An early-retirement incentive may have decreased the need for deeper staff cuts, Human Resources Manager Susan Skitowski said.

At least 33 employees are eligible for the retirement incentive, which offers those with 30 years' experience all of their sick leave - rather than the usual 48 percent - upon retirement. Employees have until Nov. 30 to decide.

Three employees from the library employees association and four from the other union - the Communication Workers of America - will accept the incentives and retire. Two other CWA members will retire on disability, Ms. Skitowski said.

Thirteen full-time CWA members will be shifted to limited part-time hours. The union represents about 160 circulation clerks and maintenance and custodial employees, who are paid about $13 to $21 an hour.

Harry Johnston, CWA's director for the local library, did not return calls for comment yesterday.

CWA will not shoulder concessions because of "significantly more retirements in their unit," Ms. Skitowski said.

Exempt employees felt the pain too.

Four full-time nonunion employees are to be laid off Oct. 31, Ms. Skitowski said. Two full-time exempt staffers will be reduced to part time in January.

More layoffs for exempt staff are possible without more retirements among their ranks, she said.

"We're aiming for seven more exempt retirements. It depends on how those play out," Ms. Skitowski said.

Contact Bridget Tharp at:

btharp@theblade.com

or 419-724-6086.



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