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Published: Saturday, 6/28/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

AFSCME approves new contract

Pact has 1.5% pay increases, drops pension pickup

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Members of Toledo’s largest municipal union Friday overwhelmingly approved a new three-year contract, the first full-term contract to be negotiated by Mayor D. Michael Collins.

The agreement provides for 1.5 percent pay increases in January of 2015, 2016, and 2017, according to a memorandum from the Collins administration to city council members.

The contract also eliminates, starting next month, the 3 percent employee share of pension contributions that the city has been paying.

Members of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7 approved the contract by a 70 percent margin, said Steve Kowalik, regional director of AFSCME Council 8. The tally was not released.

While union officials declined to comment on contract particulars, a Collins administration memo noted the pact struck with AFSCME Local 7 would:

■ Provide pay increases of 1.5 percent in January of 2015, 2016, and 2017.

■ Eliminate the 3 percent employee share of pension contributions that the city has been paying.

Each 1.5 percent raise will cost the city about $300,000 per year. The elimination of the pension pickup will save the city $400,000 the rest of 2014, and $800,000 annually

The administration and Local 7 concluded negotiations Wednesday. About 800 city workers were eligible to cast a ballot from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at AFSCME’s union hall on Reynolds Road. About 80 percent of those eligible took part, Mr. Kowalik said.

Union officials declined comment on the contract’s particulars.

“After city council reviews and approves their portion of it, the city and AFSCME Council 8 will issue a joint statement to talk about the process and, with the council’s approval, our accomplishment,” Mr. Kowalik said.

The Collins administration’‍s memo recommends that council approve the agreement.

Robert Reinbolt, the mayor’s chief of staff, said the pay increases will cost the city $300,000 a year, although only $40,000 of that comes from the general fund. The elimination of the pension pickup will save the city $400,000 for the rest of 2014 and $800,000 annually, Mr. Reinbolt said.

The average Local 7 salary is $39,400, and 70 percent of Local 7 workers are in the Department of Public Utilities, where they staff the water treatment plants and operate trucks and other equipment to repair water and sewer lines, according to city Finance Director George Sarantou. The remaining 30 percent are in general-fund services and work mowing boulevards, parks, and cemeteries, and removing snow and leaves.

The agreement seems to have been reached with minimal friction. Negotiations took several weeks and were concluded even before the current contract expires on Monday.

Mr. Reinbolt said it has been rare in modern times for a new contract to be settled before the previous pact expired.

“I think it’s very positive,” Mr. Reinbolt said. “This shows the union and the city teams worked together, worked through issues, and got it resolved quicker than under the normal process.”

The administration’‍s memo says that the tentative agreement also calls for the creation of a seasonal municipal workers pool, which both will increase city oversight and decrease reliance on temporary agencies and reduce overhead costs. The proposal “also substantially strengthens management’‍s right to discipline employees who have alcohol or drug violations and/​or attendance-related issues,” the memo says.

In March, the Collins administration negotiated a wage reopener that gave Local 7 workers a 2.5 percent raise retroactive to Jan. 1, that will cost taxpayers an extra $1.4 million this year.

The last AFSCME Local 7 contract, passed in 2011, froze wages for the first two years and shifted medical and pension costs to employees.

Blade politics writer Tom Troy contributed to this report.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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