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City, union ‘close’ to agreement

8/29/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

GREEN — Despite recommendations by a third party, the city and one union are heading back to the negotiation table.

According to Mayor Dick Norton, the city of Green and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Ohio Council 8, 2714-Employee Union are “close” to coming to a collective bargaining agreement.

“We are going to move forward, as time is of the essence,” he said.

At the Aug. 27 meeting, Council introduced a resolution accepting the report of a fact finder appointed by the state employee relations board regarding the collective bargaining agreement between the city and AFSCME, which represents 48 city office and clerical staff members and employees of the Service Department.

After a 20-minute executive session was held, Norton withdrew the legislation, however.

He later stated the resolution was taken off the table because the union voted not to accept the report of the fact finder during a meeting held the night before, on Aug. 26.

According to city officials, the collective bargaining agreement between the city and AFSCME expired April 15. AFSCME and the city have continued to negotiate toward a new collective bargaining agreement for the term of April 16, 2013, through April 15, 2016, city officials said.

According to city officials, the state employment relations board — in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code — appointed a fact finder, named Robert Stein, to mediate and resolve outstanding issues between Green and AFSCME, regarding the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement. Stein reportedly issued his fact-finder report Aug. 20.

The report states the economy in Ohio continues to show signs of improvement from the national recession, but it recognizes a lot of uncertainty still exists when it comes to the financial positions of the municipalities in the state.

According to the report, “A well-managed city that wishes to provide first rate service to its citizens must also assume it will have to pay a fair wage and provide competitive benefits to recruit and retain qualified employees delivering superior service.”

The report explains the negotiations between the city and union specifically have focused on the percentage of contribution employees should pay for their health insurance and the amount of the salary increase for the bargaining unit each year of the agreement.

According to the report, the union proposes to eliminate the current maximum amount contributed rate for health insurance, making the new employee contribution rate 6 percent for the first year of the agreement, 10 percent the second year and 10 percent the third year.

Concerning compensation, the report explains the union would like a 3 percent wage increase to be put in place for the first year of the contract, retroactive to April 16; a 3 percent wage increase, effective April 16, 2014; and a 3 percent wage increase, effective April 16, 2015.

The union argues the financial position of the employer is very strong and states “that unlike other municipalities across the country, the city steadily grew its reserves throughout the economic downturn,” according to the report. The report states the union points to the city’s ending balance for Fiscal Year 2012 of $22.6 million, which represents more than 100 percent of its Fiscal Year 2012 cash expenditures. In addition, the union also argues that nonbargaining-unit employees in 2013 received merit raises similar to its proposed general wage increase, the report states.

The report explains the city proposes the union employees contribute 10 percent for health care for the first year of the contract, 12.5 percent the second year and 15 percent the third year.

The city also is proposing a 1.5 percent wage increase for the first year of the contract, a 1.5 percent increase for the second year and a 1.5 percent increase for the third year, according to the report.

In terms of wages, the city contends it is proposing a “conservative, yet reasonable compensation package due to its business-minded approach that it has taken in dealing with its employee costs,” the report states.

According to the report, the city recognizes it is in “sound” financial condition by making “fiscally responsible” decisions despite the challenges of declining revenue.

The fact-finder report recommends a 6 percent health care contribution by the union employees the first year of the contract, an 8 percent increase the second year and a 10 percent increase the third year.

In regards to wages, the report suggests a 2 percent wage increase for the first year of the agreement, a 2 percent increase for the second year and 2 percent increase for the third year.

Norton said he was surprised the union rejected the fact finder’s recommendations. He added the report was voted down by just one vote.

“It is a rational, fair and generous offer by the fact finder,” Norton said. “We are not very far apart, though.”

Human Resource Director Jeanne Greco said both parties would meet soon to rehash the issues and most likely reach an agreement relatively quickly now.

Also during the regular meeting, Council approved a resolution authorizing the city to increase the contract for various engineering services for the 2013 calendar for ongoing work being done.

Council also approved a resolution increasing the commitment of local match funds for the Moving Ohio Forward Grant program to take down additional contaminated and blighted residential properties in the city.

During the Planning, Community and Economic Development meeting, held prior to the regular meeting, Councilman Gerard Neugebauer (at large) provided a summary of the Aug. 21 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC).

He explained General RV proposed a 14,600-square-foot building on a 23.4-acre vacant site at 3063 Greensburg Road. According to Neugebauer, the building would be used to expand General RV’s business, providing additional space for RV prep and a wash bay. He said the building property is on the south side of Greensburg Road, across the street from the company’s existing facilities on Greensburg Road. The PZC approved the site plan, he added.

Neugebauer said the PZC also gave a favorable recommendation concerning the final plat for Creekside Subdivision, which consists of seven lots on 5.5 acres. A new public road, named Creekside Drive, would be constructed on the north side of Heckman Road, between Ramsey Drive and Park Ridge Drive, he explained. Neugebauer added the road would end at a cul-de-sac, and the subdivision would be served by central sewers, but lots would have individual water wells.

Lastly, Neugebauer reported the PZC approved the preliminary plan to develop the remaining acreage of Lakes of Green, an open space subdivision. The subdivision is located on the east side of Myersville Road and north of East Turkeyfoot Lake Road. The entire subdivision would include 128 lots on 76.39 acres, he said.

In other city business, Council and city administration will meet Sept. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in Conference Room B of the Central Administration Building (CAB), 1755 Town Park Blvd., to review current road projects in the city and develop the 2014 road projects plan.

Norton also encouraged residents to attend Kick for the Cure Sept. 21 at 1 p.m. at Green Memorial Stadium. He said the event is designed to raise money for Camp Quality in Akron, which offers camps for children with cancer, and the Northeast Ohio chapter of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which is dedicated to cancer education and research.

The next regular meeting will take place Sept. 10, starting at 5 p.m. with committee meetings and followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at the CAB.

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