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Published: Wednesday, 5/19/2010

Toledo refuse crews unanimous in rejection of concessions

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

City of Toledo refuse workers have unanimously rejected a concessionary contract, and the two sides will be plunged into the potentially lengthy process of fact-finding to settle their impasse.

The contract, which would have saved the city $358,000, included increased costs for the employees for health care and no pay increase in 2010 or 2011. It did, however, include a wage re-opener provision in 2011.

Steve Herwat, deputy mayor of operations, said the two sides would go before a fact-finder. He declined to speculate why none of the union members voted in favor of the new agreement in the balloting held Monday night.

The Teamsters have been in talks on a new contract since before the last one expired Dec. 31.

Bill Lichtenwald, president of Teamsters Local 20, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The proposed contract, which was obtained by The Blade, would have required members to begin paying more for health care in its second year. A single person would pay $10 a month in the second year and $25 in the third, a single plus one dependent would pay $15 a month in the second year and $40 a month, and a family plan would cost $25 a month in the second year and $55 a month in the third year.

The proposed contract also would have established an eight-hour workday for the refuse workers.

This year, the Bell administration continued the city's planned downsizing of the department after it began in December using garbage trucks with automated arms that require only a driver rather than a three-person crew.

The city handed out 42 layoff notices in February, and more than half of the recipients were not guaranteed other city jobs.

The remaining refuse workers kept their level of pay and benefits intact - unlike most city workers who were forced to take midcontract concessions after a March 30 declaration of "exigent circumstances" by City Council. It required the employees to begin paying the 10 percent employees' share of their pension contribution for nine months and contribute to their medical-insurance costs based on a sliding-salary scale.

Only Teamsters Local 20 and Firefighters Local 92 did not get those forced concessions. The firefighters had previously approved a deal to avoid that, and the Bell administration did not ask council to impose the forced concessions on the Teamsters since the union was in talks for a new contract.



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