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Published: Wednesday, 4/21/2010

Another city union starts voting on concessionary agreement

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Another group of municipal union employees began voting Wednesday afternoon on a mid-contract agreement to give the city of Toledo savings it needs to keep a balanced budget while, at the same time, reverse deeper concessions imposed on the bargaining unit.

The 67 communications operators who work for the city and belong to AFSCME Local 7, will vote through the afternoon on an agreement to pay 3.5 percent of their pension premiums — as opposed to the full 10 percent Mayor Mike Bell and Toledo City Council forced most city unions to begin doing on March 30.

The communications operators had previously paid nothing toward their own retirement plans.

Also Wednesday, members of AFSCME Local 2058, which represents city administrative and professional employees, overwhelmingly approved a tentative agreement. The vote was 173-5.

It requires those employees to pay 3 percent of their pension premiums.

Of all the city unions to be affected by a declaration of "exigent circumstances" by council on March 30, only the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association remains without an agreement.

Mr. Bell said he presented TPPA President Dan Wagner with a proposal Monday morning, but that he refused to even let his members vote on it. The city said it needs $2.6 million in savings from the patrolmen's union.

Toledo City Council on Monday reversed the forced concessions it slapped on the union representing the Toledo Fire Department's battalion chiefs and deputy chiefs and on the remainder of the AFSCME Local 7 membership — which includes city clerks and equipment operators.

Those unions also approved mid-contract agreements this week with the Bell administration to replace the deeper cuts that it and most other unions received when council declared exigent circumstances.

Council voted 9-0 during a special meeting to reverse the order for the Toledo Fire Chiefs Association and the rest of the Local 7 members, the city's largest union with 900 members. Councilmen Lindsay Webb, Adam Martinez, and Phillip Copeland were not present.

Council is scheduled to meet Thursday to reverse the exigent circumstances for Local 2058, the communications operators, and The Toledo Police Command Officers Associations.

Terry Stewart, president of the command officers union, said members would begin voting Wednesday night on their agreement. The terms were not immediately released.

Under exigent circumstances, the administration was empowered to require employees to pay the full 10 percent employee share of the pension contribution, which had been paid by the city along with the employer share, and also to pay more for medical insurance.

The city's nonunion employees, including the mayor and the top-paid administrators, continue to operate under those concessions and are likely to stay that way, Mr. Bell said.

Local 7 and the fire chiefs also agreed to pay 3 percent of their pension premiums through Dec. 31.

The fire chiefs also will carry over vacation until 2011, which will eliminate expected overtime to save $84,730 for the city; reduce sick time conversion to yield a saving of $8,415 for the city; reduce compensation time payout for 2010 to save $11,400, and pledged that an additional $45,317 worth of compensatory time will be withheld from payment this year.

All the agreements so far have restored the cost structure for medical insurance that existed before council's March 30 vote, which had increased the employees' cost based on a sliding salary range.

The new fire chiefs agreement saves the city $195,390 through Dec. 31, which is more than the $150,024 that was expected in 2010 from imposing exigent circumstances on the 19-member union.

The city was expecting to save $889,248 by imposing the emergency designation on Local 7 — including the 67 communications operators who work under a separate contract from the rest of the bargaining unit.

The saving for the city from the new Local 7 agreement is about $341,000, but that figure does not include any concessions from the communications operators, who, before the exigent circumstances, paid nothing for medical insurance or toward their pension premiums.

The savings from the communications officers agreement was not immediately released.

Council President Wilma Brown said the Bell administration would have to adjust the 2010 budget if the new agreements reached with the unions do not save as much money as the exigent circumstances votes would have.

"The administration probably negotiated the best deal they could get and we will see what happens at the end of the year, and we know at contract time all of these will have to be reviewed," Ms. Brown said. "I am glad they came to the table to work out something."

Removing the emergency order also removes the possibility of lawsuits, which many of the unions had threatened.

The total series of cutbacks, concessions, and new revenues from Mr. Bell to address a $48 million deficit includes a number of funding increases from residents, including:

w$11.12 million by increasing the city monthly refuse fee to $15 for the remainder of 2010.

w$2 million by cutting from 100 percent to 75 percent the tax credit for people who live in Toledo but work in and pay taxes in another community.

w$4.03 million from collecting unpaid income taxes and accounts receivable.

Unlike an agreement saving the city $3.081 million that was reached with Firefighters Local 92 before council's March 30 vote, the new union agreements this week do not give any other city employees the possibility of reimbursement of the cost for their pension payments this year.

Firefighters Local 92 was spared the exigent circumstances vote because it had agreed to a deal requiring members to pay 3 percentage points of the 10 percent that employees are expected to pay into their state pensions, and to defer overtime pay until March, 2011.

Additionally, the concessions will roll back and firefighters would get a refund on the money they paid for their own pension savings if Issue 5 is approved by voters next month.

Passage of Issue 5 would let the city use the proceeds of the 0.75 percent temporary income tax for operating expenditures rather than capital improvements.

Mr. Bell said he would also use that money to restore the 100 percent tax credit and reduce the $15 monthly trash fee, especially for seniors.

The Toledo Police Patrolman's Association was the only other union to vote on that nearly same deal, but the members turned it down while Local 92 overwhelmingly approved it.



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