Reynoldsburg News

Reynoldsburg-USWA dispute

Raise pending for former union members

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Reynoldsburg City Council is close to approving a 2-percent raise and retroactive pay for 12 employees who were formerly represented by the United Steel Workers of America.

Council members heard a second reading of an ordinance Monday, April 8, that authorizes a 2-percent salary increase retroactive to Jan. 1, 2011, for the former union members.

Councilman Barth Cotner, chairman of the finance committee, said the ordinance will go back to committee discussions April 15, then likely will return to the full council April 22 for a third reading and vote.

He said approving the salary increase is "the right thing to do."

"These employees could not get the raises that other city employees received in past years because they were union employees," he said. "The city and the steelworkers' union could not come up with an agreement, so now that they are no longer under the union, we can give them the salary increase they should have received."

According to a city auditor's report, paying the employees retroactive pay will cost Reynoldsburg $21,838.98.

The city's dispute with the USWA goes back several years. In June 2009, 17 city employees who were USWA members voted to remain in the union, although it was the third decertification vote requested since the employees joined the union in 2006.

After voting to remain in the union, the employees complained that the city was treating them unfairly. They said they had not received pay increases that other employees received in 2006. City officials said at the time that they could not offer the union members wage and benefit increases while the city was negotiating with the United Steel Workers on a collective bargaining agreement.

The union employees brought their concerns to an administrative judge and the State Employee Relations Board, which said the city was guilty of unfair labor practices when it changed the terms of health insurance coverage for all city employees while still in negotiations with the union.

The city filed exceptions to the SERB conclusions and appeals were filed on both sides, with the union also accusing the city of breaching its statutory duty to bargain in good faith.

In March 2010, the SERB ruled that the city had had not breached its statutory duty to bargain in good faith, but in March 2011, Reynoldsburg City Council rejected a new three-year contract with the union members. Council members stated then that they did so because of the contract's length and a "wage reopener" factor during the second and third years of the agreement.

On March 14, 2012, the union filed more charges of unfair labor practices by the city with SERB.

Mayor Brad McCloud said last week that the United Steel Workers of America had filed a notice last month with SERB stating the union no longer represents the city employees.

The decision to offer retroactive pay might be good news for current employees, but not to former employee Randy Wilson, a Pataskala resident, who attended city council committee meetings April 2.

Wilson said he retired from the city in December 2012.

"I heard that the salary increase is retroactive to January 2011 and I feel my name should be on the list for retroactive pay," he said. "I may be retired now, but I worked 24 of those months."

City Auditor Richard Harris said Reynoldsburg "has traditionally only paid retro pay to people still employed by the city."

"It would not be a normal course for us to pay someone retro pay who is not employed with us," he said.

Cotner said the pay increase ordinance will go back to the finance committee for discussion at 7:30 p.m. April 15 at Reynoldsburg City Hall, 7232 E. Main St.

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