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Published: 3/24/2010

Toledo police, fire unions vote on tentative contracts

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo's police patrolmen began voting Wednesday afternoon to change their union contract with temporary stipulations that call for give backs on pension plan payments and overtime.

Under the proposed agreement, officers would be required to pay 3 percent of their pension plan payments for nine months, which averages to about $65 per paycheck. They also would agree to divert overtime payments until March, 2011.

The city would continue to pay 7 percent of the employees' share of the pension pickup. Having the officers pay 3 percent would save the city about $500,000.

Deferring the overtime would save the city $1.8 million during the period.

The Bell administration and the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association leadership reached the tentative agreement Monday.

Dan Wagner, TPPA president, said the agreement, if approved if approved by the union members, would "insulate police officers from layoff."

Also Wednesday, the fire department is presenting its tentative deal with the city to members Toledo Firefighters Local 92 through Thursday, Toledo Fire Chief Mike Wolever said. Members are expected to vote on the measure Friday and Saturday.

Like the deal for Toledo police, firefighters would not face any pay cuts under the current proposal, Chief Wolever said. He declined to discuss further details of the plan.

Mayor Mike Bell on Tuesday said he would ask Toledo City Council to alter the police union contract by declaring exigent circumstances" and force concessions upon the union if its membership doesn't approve the proposed agreement.

"Unless we can get what we need, we still have the financial problem," Mr. Bell said. "This is not a fake problem."

The mayor has been negotiating for concessions with the city unions to help balance a $48 million general-fund deficit.

Mr. Bell previously said he wants to save Toledo $6.27 million by ceasing payments into the employee pension program and $2.6 million by having employees pay 20 percent of their health-care costs.

Steve Herwat, deputy mayor of operations, said the city would continue negotiating with the other unions up until the March 31 deadline for the city to have a balanced budget.

He said asking council to approve exigent circumstances on the other unions is still a possibility.

The city is also negotiating with the unions representing refuse workers, police command officers, and fire command officers, who are among the highest paid employees in the city.

The mayor sent 125 police officers 30-day layoff notices on March 15 but agreed two days later to at least temporarily rescind the notices.

There are currently 590 sworn officers on the force, but that number is expected to drop to 584 by April 15 because of retirements. The police layoffs would have saved $4.08 million toward the $48 million deficit.

Before the layoff notices were sent, Mr. Wagner said he would not publicly concede to reopen the patrolmen's three-year contract that was signed in July, 2009.

Layoff notices sent on March 15 to 125 firefighters were recalled that same day after a last-minute negotiation that Mr. Bell called "positive" but refused to discuss.

The city signed new three-year contracts in July, 2009, with the TPPA and Firefighters Local 92.

Although the police and fire unions did agree to concessions in those contracts, some of the cutbacks were temporary and Mr. Bell has said several times that the city could not afford the agreements this year.

The current contracts required officers and firefighters to pay into their own pension plan for six months, freeze wages for two years, and required them for the first time to pay a portion of their health-insurance costs. In exchange for the half-year partial pension pickup, the patrolmen and firefighters got an additional 6 1/2 vacation days through Dec. 31, 2009.

But at the same time, the contract grants a 3.5 percent pay increase beginning Jan. 1, 2011.

Also, after the first six months under the contract, the city resumed making the entire 10 percent employee share of the pension payment, which is on top of the employer's contribution of 19.5 percent.

Any newly hired police officers will have to pay the full 10 percent of the employee's pension share.

The contract also deferred all overtime payments for the remainder of 2009 until March 1, but police officers may choose to take compensatory time instead of banking their overtime.

Article appeared in earlier editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

Bell, Toledo police union agree on tentative concessions

Toledo has a tentative agreement with its police patrol officers to alter their union contract and take concessions, but that won't stop the city from trying to force givebacks from other safety forces, Mayor Mike Bell said Tuesday.

"Unless we can get what we need, we still have the financial problem," Mr. Bell said. "This is not a fake problem."

The mayor has been negotiating for concessions with the city unions to help balance a $48 million general-fund deficit.

He has asked Toledo City Council to declare exigent circumstances in an attempt to change the union contracts and save Toledo $6.27 million by ceasing payments into the employee pension program and $2.6 million by having employees pay 20 percent of their health-care costs.

Dan Wagner, president of the

Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, and Mr. Bell confirmed yesterday that the two sides had reached a tentative agreement Monday evening.

Neither side would discuss the details of the agreement, which is subject to ratification by the union's members and approval by the 12-member City Council.

"It was very positive talks with the police and we put together what we thought was a pretty fair deal with them," Mr. Bell said.

Steve Herwat, deputy mayor of operations, said the city would continue negotiating with the other unions up until the March 31 deadline for the city to have a balanced budget.

"If we are not able to reach agreement, then [exigent circumstances] is something that we will be able to do," he said.

Mr. Herwat said the administration would ask council for the exigent circumstances vote against the TPPA if the union's members do not ratify the tentative agreement reached Monday.

The union is to vote from noon today through tomorrow.

Mr. Wagner said the agreement, if approved, would "insulate police officers from layoff."

"We still have to put it before our membership for a vote," he said. "The city would not agree to something unless it included concessions."

The mayor sent 125 police officers 30-day layoff notices on March 15 but agreed two days later to at least temporarily rescind the notices.

There are currently 590 sworn officers on the force, but that number is expected to drop to 584 by April 15 because of retirements. The police layoffs would have saved $4.08 million toward the $48 million deficit.

Before the layoff notices were sent, Mr. Wagner said he would not publicly concede to reopen the patrolmen's three-year contract that was signed in July, 2009.

Layoff notices sent on March 15 to 125 firefighters were recalled that same day after a last-minute negotiation that Mr. Bell called "positive" but refused to discuss.

The city is also negotiating with the unions representing refuse workers, police command officers, firefighters, and fire command officers, who are among the highest paid employees in the city.

The city signed new three-year contracts in July, 2009, with the TPPA and Firefighters Local 92.

Although the police and fire unions did agree to concessions in those contracts, some of the cutbacks were temporary and Mr. Bell has said several times that the city could not afford the agreements this year.

The current contracts required officers and firefighters to pay into their own pension plan for six months, freeze wages for two years, and required them for the first time to pay a portion of their health-insurance costs. In exchange for the half-year partial pension pickup, the patrolmen and firefighters got an additional 6 1/2 vacation days through Dec. 31, 2009.

But at the same time, the contract grants a 3.5 percent pay increase beginning Jan. 1, 2011.

Also, after the first six months under the contract, the city resumed making the entire 10 percent employee share of the pension payment, which is on top of the employer's contribution of 19.5 percent.

Any newly hired police officers will have to pay the full 10 percent of the employee's pension share.

The contract also deferred all overtime payments for the remainder of 2009 until March 1, but police officers may choose to take compensatory time instead of banking their overtime.

Council President Wilma Brown, who was unaware of the details of the agreement between TPPA and Mr. Bell, said she was pleased they reached an agreement.

"I think it's great and that's why I was holding everything until the 30th - hoping all the unions would have a chance to come together and have an agreement," Ms. Brown said. "I think all of them understood but now they understand we are not trying to hoodwink them."

Mayor Bell asked council during its March 16 meetings to vote on increasing the monthly fee for collecting trash to $15 and eliminate the income tax credit for Toledoans who work outside the city.

They put off those votes to its March 30 meeting - one day before the city must have a balanced 2010 budget in place.

Also on March 16, council did not vote on Mr. Bell's proposal to declare "exigent circumstances" to force concessions from city unions without their agreeing to renegotiate terms of their contracts and to approve a new 8 percent sports-and-event tax.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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