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Published: Tuesday, 3/16/2010

Layoffs of civilian employees put on hold by Bell administration

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The layoff of less than a dozen city employees in two different unions was put on hold Tuesday, a top official in the Bell administration said.

"The layoffs for [AFSCME] Local 7 and [AFSCME] Local 2058 are now on hold until at least March 23rd," Deputy Mayor of Operations Steve Herwat said in an e-mail. "The bumping session for March 22nd is hereby cancelled."

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell sent layoff notices to 125 police officers and 12 civilian employees Monday. There are 590 sworn officers on the police force.

Mr. Bell said the layoffs, which would take effect in 30 days, are part of his contingency plan to balance a $48 million deficit. They could be rescinded if Toledo City Council approves forced union concessions, a trash-fee increase, and higher taxes for a select few.

Mr. Bell also eliminated 20.5 vacant city jobs.

One hundred twenty-five Toledo firefighters avoided getting layoff notices because of a last-minute negotiation that Mr. Bell called "positive" but refused to discuss.

Alan Cox, president of AFSCME Local 2058, said the layoffs were put on hold Tuesday because the two unions are talking productively with the mayor.

"It's a good faith effort on his part to say as long as we are talking we can hold off on that," Mr. Cox said.

Mr. Bell wants to save $6.27 million by ceasing payments into the employee pension program and $2.6 million by having employees pay 20 percent of their medical-coverage costs.

The city would save $4.08 million — just 8.5 percent of the total budget deficit — by laying off the 125 police officers, plus $925,000 by canceling plans to hire 30 police recruits in September.

The mayor is asking council to force concessions from city unions without them agreeing to renegotiate terms of their contracts. He wants council to approve a controversial measure called "exigent circumstances." Last year, council refused to do that for Mayor Carty Finkbeiner when the deficit was $27.7 million.

The city has 590 sworn police officers.

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, said the police department would be severely limited with 125 fewer officers.

He questioned why firefighters seemed to get better treatment from Mr. Bell, who was Toledo's fire chief for 17 years.



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