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Published: Monday, 4/19/2010

City of Toledo, police union to argue over court jurisdiction on contract

Jensen Jensen
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

More than two weeks after forced givebacks went into effect for the city of Toledo's unions, attorneys for the city and the police patrolmen's union will return to Lucas County Common Pleas Court Monday to argue whether a local judge can step in.

Judge James Jensen issued a ruling March 31 that denied the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association's request for a temporary restraining order to block the forced cuts, saying that the issue was one for the State Employment Relations Board.

The union then asked for a full hearing, which was scheduled for Wednesday.

Last week, city attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the union's complaint, saying that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the issue. Today, that question will be argued before Judge Jensen.

"The Court accurately observed that the TPPA alleged the city committed an unfair labor practice by unilaterally changing the terms of the contract [the parties' collective bargaining agreement] under a declaration of exigent circumstances," the city's motion said. "The TPPA cannot then seek this Court's intervention to characterize the dispute as a matter of 'contract interpretation.'•"

The union came to the court March 31 seeking to halt the city's plans to force employees to pay the 10 percent share of their pension contribution and make contributions to their health-care costs, based on a sliding salary scale.

The union argued that the contract does not allow the city to "re-open and/or in any way to unilaterally modify, alter, or change" the collective bargaining agreement.

City attorneys countered that City Council had passed an ordinance declaring "exigent circumstances" that required changes to the union's contract.

Judge Jensen ruled that because the city acknowledged unilaterally changing the contracts, the issue became an "unfair labor practice" complaint.

He said other cases that the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled on indicated that unfair labor practice issues are determined by the State Employment Relations Board.

According to the city, the union has not yet filed a complaint with SERB.

In a response filed Friday to the city's motion to dismiss, union attorneys said that the situation did not involve an unfair labor practice but rather a "contract enforcement dispute."

"… The city acknowledges that it has committed [an] unfair labor practice and insists that the TPPA must pursue its claim through SERB. However, [case law] makes it clear that the TPPA can pursue a remedy through the grievance process, and that the issue of arbitrability of the grievance is outside SERB's exclusive jurisdiction and per [state law] within the jurisdiction of the common pleas court," the response stated.

The union asked the judge to deny the motion to dismiss and proceed to a full hearing on the merits of the union's case.

Also filed last week were notices from the Sylvania Township Fire union and Toledo Firefighters Local 92, which expressed support for the police union.

- ERICA BLAKE



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