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Published: Thursday, 9/30/2010

City Council imposes contract on Teamsters

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council Thursday voted to impose a new contract upon unionized city refuse and sewer plant workers just five days after a vast majority of those employees rejected the pact.

With the 8-4 council vote to force Teamsters Local 20 to accept the contract, the fight between the union and the Bell administration is shifting into a higher gear.

Teamsters Local 20 President Bill Lichtenwald said he expected council's action and plans to fight it.

“We expected it and we will react now with an unfair labor practice [complaint] that says there is a contract pending because of their failure to turn down a fact finder report on Aug. 19,” Mr. Lichtenwald said.

The two sides are fighting over whether council properly rejected a previous contract that stems from a fact finder report.

“They can impose [the contract] and then our alternative would be to strike,” Mr. Lichtenwald said. “That happens in the private sector … and striking is certainly a possibility we want to avoid — the city does not need it and our members don't need it.”

Also Thursday, the city filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the union with the State

Employee Relations Board in Columbus alleging it engaged for nearly four weeks in “bad-faith negotiations” after City Council rejected the fact finder report that recommended terms city leaders said Toledo could not afford.

Mr. Lichtenwald on Wednesday sent Mayor Bell a letter demanding the city honor a contract stemming from the fact finder's report. The demand came after four weeks of talks that resulted in the pact that union members overwhelmingly voted down on Saturday.

Voting to impose that contract were councilmen Tom Waniewski, Michael Ashford, Wilma Brown, Mike Craig, Robert Ludeman, Adam Martinez, Joe McNamara, and George Sarantou.

Councilmen Steven Steel, Lindsay Webb, D. Michael Collins, and Phillip Copeland voted against imposing the contract.

After the vote, Mr. Steel and Ms. Webb said they were not convinced the two sides could not resolve their differences.

“I am not convinced we are at impasse,” Mr. Steel said. “There is one final sticking point and rather than abrogate the entire collective bargaining process, I would rather see the sides back to negotiating.”

Mr. Lichtenwald said the union wants a “me too” clause that would grant its members the same pay increases other unions next year might negotiate in future contracts. The city was unwilling to concede to that, he said.

As far as the city is concerned, the union will begin to be compensated under the contract council imposed Thursday.

The contract puts the union members under the city's health-care plan — something its members have fought. The city says its own plan provides comparable service and would save about $600,000 a year for taxpayers.

Under the agreement, the workers have to contribute to medical-coverage premiums of $25 a month for singles, $40 a month for a single person plus one dependent, and $55 a month for family plans. The deal also grants union members pay raises in exchange for picking up the city's contributions to their pension plans.

The agreement gives them a 1 percent pay raise in November, another 1 percent increase in July, and a third 1 percent increase in July, 2012.

Union members also would increase the portion of the 10 percent “employee's share” of their pension contribution.

The contract addresses a number of incentives that trash workers received. It abolishes solid waste workers' incentives and requires them to complete an eight-hour day, which they have not been required to do. Presently they can leave when their work is done.

The contract enacts a $260 “accident avoidance” incentive to be paid every quarter to each solid waste driver, bulk driver, and recycle driver who does not cause an accident and is not responsible for damaging city property. New hires and transfers do not get the perk.

There is also an incentive to reduce sick time: Each union member will receive $100 annually if Local 20 reduces its overall sick time by 20 percent.

In addition, union members each will receive $1,500 in exchange for dismissing the “Holiday Bonus Comp Time” grievance, which stems from the administration of former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner switching the city to a “leap day” trash schedule to reduce built-in overtime days throughout the year.

By comparison, the fact finder report that the union insists is the current binding contract grants a 2 percent raise effective the first pay period of July, 2011, or a 3 percent increase effective Jan. 1, 2012.

It also recommends a boost in the drivers' hourly rate to $21.08 from $18.03 and a lump-sum payment to compensate for the loss of $3.27 an hour in incentives and bonuses that were related to the city's way of collecting trash before automation.

The fact finder refused the city's request for the workers to pay their own full 10 percent share of the pension contribution.

Council on Aug. 17 voted 7-4 on the fact finder report — just one vote shy of the eight-vote majority needed to reject it.

Council took up the issue again Aug. 19, voting 10-1 to reject the report.

On Aug. 21, Local 20 went ahead with a vote of its membership to ratify the fact finder's report that council had rejected.

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 ones.

John Roca, attorney for Local 20, said the union will file an unfair labor practice complaint once the city refuses to sign the contract from the fact finder report.

“We made it clear from the very get-go … our position is that we have a contract and we want to talk and see if we can resolve our differences,” Mr. Roca said. “But if we can't resolve our differences, we will fall back that we have a contract.”

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



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