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Published: Thursday, 5/13/2010

Police union files contract complaint

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Less than a month after its members rejected an agreement that would have eliminated forced concessions placed on them through a declaration of "exigent circumstances," the Toledo Police Command Officers Association filed a complaint yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to force the city to honor its original contract.

"Obviously, we filed because we believe in our cause, and that is that the contract should be honored," said Terry Stewart, the union's president.

In the "complaint to enforce arbitration agreement," the union claims the city has refused to arbitrate its grievance of the exigent circumstances declaration on March 30.

On April 22, the TPCOA membership turned down an agreement that would have required the command officers to pay 3 percent of their pension plan premiums through Dec. 31 and would have spread out retirement severance payouts. The agreement would have saved the city $902,000.

The forced concessions were part of Mayor Mike Bell's plan to address a $48 million general fund deficit. He asked council to force the givebacks when talks stalled with all the city unions except for Firefighters Local 92 and refuse workers of Teamsters Local 20.

Local 92 members agreed to a midcontract memorandum of understanding before March 30, and the Teamsters have been in talks on a new contract since before the last one expired Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, terms enacted by City Council after its March 30 declaration of exigent circumstances will stand for the patrolmen's union and its 463 officers and for the command officers' union and its 121 members.

The exigent circumstances declaration gave the city the power to require employees to pay the full 10 percent employee share of their pension contribution, which had been paid by the city along with the employer share, and also to pay more for medical insurance.

The other unions affected by the exigent circumstances declaration have OK'd concessionary agreements.

The complaint filed yesterday by TPCOA said the city also would not respond to an April 16 grievance that stated the city agreed upon "more favorable terms with another public safety union on an issue involving economic benefits."

Jen Sorgenfrei, Mayor Mike Bell's spokesman, said she had not seen the complaint and could not comment.

Just last week, the three-member State Employment Relations Board found probable cause that both the city and the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association may have engaged in collective bargaining violations as part of their continuing standoff over the forced contract concessions.

The board authorized the attorney general to ask the Lucas County Common Pleas Court on its behalf for an injunction to halt the city's actions against the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association.

Each side has accused the other of engaging in unfair labor practices. The union has accused the city of unilaterally changing the terms of an existing contract and refusing to bargain in good faith.

The city, in turn, has accused the union of improperly engaging in a "blue flu," by having an unusually large number of its members call off "sick" on April 5 and 6 in apparent protest of the city's move to impose concessions in midcontract.

The board chose to preside over the hearings itself rather than have the cases go before an administrative law judge who then would report to the board.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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