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Published: Saturday, 4/19/2014 - Updated: 6 months ago

Arbitrator rules in city’s favor on AFSCME pact; union objects

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The city of Toledo won an arbitration ruling against its largest union, saving thousands of dollars, but the union promptly asked a judge to vacate the decision.

Mayor D. Michael Collins said the dispute between AFSCME Local 7 and the city began under the previous administration, and he hopes it would not sully future relations. The mayor is a former police union president and beat incumbent Mike Bell last year with overwhelming union support.

Members of the union in 2011 approved a new three-year contract that substantially increased health and pension contributions while freezing pay for two years. The concessionary contract came to a vote as the city was grappling with the effects of economic difficulties, including tumbling revenue from both property and income taxes. The contract was projected to save the city about $3 million in pension and health-care expenses before it expires June 30.

The contract meant that employees who at the time paid nothing toward pensions would have to pay 7 percent by 2013 — the equivalent of about $2,575 a year for the average worker.

Steve Kowalik, a spokesman for Local 7 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, said the city agreed to temper that dent in worker take-home pay with two annual $750 checks to each employee.

The pension terms did not apply to employees hired after Jan. 1, 2009, who had already been paying 10 percent of pension costs.

The Bell administration said $750 checks were only meant for workers hired before Jan. 1, 2009.

In the arbitration, Local 7 demanded the city immediately pay the $750 lump sum payments to employees hired after Jan. 1, 2009, and “make the employees whole.”

In his March 21 decision, which was sent to the city this week, Arbitrator Gregory James Van Pelt sided with the city.

“Local 7 took the position that the city had promised to pay lump sums payments to all Local 7 members while the city argued that lump-sum payments were solely for Local 7 members adversely affected by the diminution of the PERS pick-up,” said city Law Director Adam Loukx. “Fortunately, the arbitrator saw it the city’s way.”

The union on Thursday field a motion in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to vacate Mr. Van Pelt’s order.

The Collins administration could not immediately identify what the cost would have been had the arbitrator sided with AFSCME.

“If the city were to have lost the arbitration, it would have cost $75,000 for every 100 workers who were employed after 2009,” said city spokesman Lisa Ward.

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



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