The impasse between the Bell administration and the union representing city refuse and water-plant workers seemed to get worse Wednesday as the union claimed again that the two sides actually have a binding contract.
Teamsters Local 20 President Bill Lichtenwald sent Mayor Mike Bell a letter Wednesday demanding the city honor a contract stemming from a fact-finder report that Toledo City Council rejected in August.
Mr. Lichtenwald's demand comes after four weeks of further negotiations that resulted in another agreement union members overwhelmingly voted down Saturday.
Council on Aug. 17 voted 7-4 on the fact-finder report — falling one vote shy of the needed 8-vote majority to reject it. Council then took up the issue a second time on Aug. 19, at which point it voted 10-1 in favor or rejecting the report.
On Aug. 21, Teamsters Local went ahead with a vote of its membership to ratify a fact-finder's report rejected by council that same week. Mr. Lichtenwald said council's 10-1 vote on Aug. 19 was invalid because under the rules of the fact finding process, the council is to hold "a vote," not multiple votes.
Wednesday, Mr. Lichtenwald said a strike would be a possibility should the city not honor that fact-finder's report — which recommended a pay raise of about 2 percent over the course of a 2010-12 contract. It also recommended a bump up in the hourly rate for refuse drivers from $18.03 to $21.08 and a lump-sum payment to compensate for the loss of $3.27 per hour that were related to the city's old process of collecting trash before it converted to automated trash collection.
The fact finder refused the city's request to have the refuse workers take over paying their own full 10 percent share of the pension contribution.
The fact finder also did not agree to the city's request to have the Teamsters brought under the city's health care plan. The city contends its own plan provides comparable service, but would save about $600,000.
The union leader said he only engaged in four weeks of talks with the city "out of respect for the city" and maintained all along that the fact finder report is the binding agreement.
Mayor Bell on Wednesday rejected that claim and questioned why the union engaged in contract talks if it already had a contract.
"The fact-finder report is behind us," he said. "What we are dealing with is in front of us."
Mr. Bell added: "The possibility that they would strike is disappointing because they don't work for the mayor, they work for the people of Toledo."
The mayor has asked council during a special meeting Thursday to impose upon the union the agreement the union rejected on Saturday.