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Published: Wednesday, 4/21/2010

Council approves labor-pact revisions

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council yesterday rolled back the forced concessions it slapped on two city unions that approved separate but similar concessionary agreements this week.

The union representing the Toledo Fire Department's battalion chiefs and deputy chiefs approved a midcontract agreement yesterday morning with the Bell administration to replace the deeper cuts that it and most other unions received when council declared “exigent circumstances.”

AFSCME Local 7, which includes clerks and equipment operators, approved its agreement with the city on Monday.

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

Later, the leadership of AFSCME 2058, which represents city administrative and professional employees, signed an agreement that must be ratified by union members.

Council would then have to reverse the exigent circumstances for that union.

Mayor Mike Bell said the unions had agreed to savings identified by his administration to keep the 2010 general fund budget balanced.

“We asked 2058 for $80,000 and they came up with $80,000,” Mr. Bell said.

“It is working toward the numbers, and we will probably have to renegotiate.”

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.

The agreements that averted those cuts are less severe for the affected city employees.

Local 7 and the fire chiefs 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.

Both agreements restore 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 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.

Council President Wilma Brown said the 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:

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

•$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.

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

In addition to the fire chiefs' union, Local 7, Local 2058, and the exempt employees, the city imposed unilateral cuts on the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association and the Toledo Police Command Officers Association.

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 the fire chiefs, Local 7, or Local 2058 any chance for 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.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:imessina@theblade.comor 419-724-6171.



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