Thursday, August 19, 2010

Answers on Teamsters fact finder report lead to more questions

Yesterday, I wrote about the fact finders report on the city of Toledo/Teamster negotiations that recommended pay increases and other measures.

Last night, I sent a note, via Facebook, to my Council Council District Representative Lindsay Webb. I politely asked, "would you please explain why you voted in favor of the fact finder report?" She relied that I should view her Facebook wall, which I did.

Lindsay Webb Here are my comments about the factfinder's report. Premised by the following: I consider the layoffs resulting from automation as the Teamsters' "give back", similar to the savings resulting from the agreements with Police and Fire. You'l...l recall that I voted against "exigent circumstances" because I felt the contract provided for a solution: layoffs. The lay-offs achieved a budget savings of 3 million. Additionally, I reject the argument that this sets a terrible standard for "pattern bargaining" because I see this as the end of the last round of negotiations, not the beginning of the next. Keep in mind, too, that the vast majority of the folks in the Teamsters' bargaining unit are not refuse collection, but wastewater treatment plant workers, which means that ultimately, this agreement will not have big impact on the General Fund.

1. By accepting the factfinder's report, we will eradicate some of the built in incentives (like the lamented shortened work day) and in exchange we are taking them up 1 or 2 pay grades to compensation but ultimately they will not realize a net gain in income, so this is not a raise, simply a reclassification.
2. Accounting for the reclassification offset, we are essentially agreeing to the same deal that we offered Police and Fire as far as raises in 2011 or 2012.
3. As far as the pension pick-up for new hires, consider this: Refuse is the only department that has permanent lay-offs. It is not likely that we will hire any time soon in that department. The factfinder's report also says that if 2 major unions make changes in the pension pick-up Teamsters must too.

Finally consider this: as soon as Council rejects the factfinder's report, the Teamsters are free to strike.

I appreciate the distinction between not voting to reject versus voting to approve, especially knowing that she had only just received the report and hadn't been able to review it. In response, I sent her the following:

Lindsay - thank you for the explanation, but I have a couple of questions as a result.

1) So the refuse workers will now have to work 8 hours in order to get 8 hours of pay. This would seem to many, including me, that this is not a 'concession or giveback' that merits additional compensation. I think the general perspective on this is that, for years, they've been OVER-compensated by being paid for work not performed. I don't blame the individuals for the terms of the contract, but we've been paying them for 8 hours of work and not getting 8 hours. Bringing them up to the 8 hours of work will make up for the past - not merit a increase in pay grades. I'm certain some will feel differently, but my guess is that the majority of Toledoans (especially those who are not currently employed) will not approve of this provision.

So how does council address the previous 'error' (for lack of better word) in not working 8 hours a day WITHOUT increasing the compensation?

2) While you see this as the last of the last round of negotiations (and I like that...) in my time in office I never saw unions make the distinction. True, the city could argue that point, but that does not ensure the perspective will prevail - nor that a future fact finder or arbitrator will as well.

Can the city risk that potential outcome?

3) Many people have taken exception to the planned raises for police and fire in 2011 and 2012, so while that helps understand why the fact finder recommends this for the Teamsters, the fact is that the city cannot afford it - for police, fire or the Teamsters.

Where will the money come from for ALL those raises next year?

4) If the Teamsters were to strike, what are the options for the city? Could it temporarily hire replacements? Could the city hire permanent replacements? Could the city privately contract for the services? While I understand and acknowledge the union solidarity feelings in Toledo, residents need to know if there are other options so they can weigh them fully.

thanks, Lindsay!

I believe these are valid questions that deserve answers prior to any vote on council. I'll keep you posted as to the response.

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