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Latest News - February 2015

February 15, 2015
City reaches impasse with utility workers union negotiations
By: Vivienne Machi

The city of Hamilton seems to currently be at an impasse with a union representing public utility workers over a new collective bargaining agreement that has been in negotiations since 2013.

According to city documents, city officials have been unable to agree with IUOE Local 20 representatives on several items for a successor agreement, including work hours, wages, overtime and other benefits, and hired a State Employment Relations Board fact finder in May 2014 to review each party’s requests. After two hearings in August and September of last year and the fact finder’s report submission on Jan. 22, City Council rejected the agreement at the Jan. 28 council meeting, which would have kept the same language as the current contract, effective from Sept. 1, 2010 through Aug. 31, 2013.

IUOE Local 20 represents approximately 81 city employees whose work spans across the utility department, from gas distribution, to working in the water treatment plants, to pumping hydroelectric energy out of the Greenup hydroelectric power plant in Portsmouth.

“They make the water in the city, they distribute the gas, treat your wastewater, produce the electric power,” said Rick Gerrein, business manager for Local 20.

Gerrein said on Feb. 3 that the fact-finder’s report recommended continuing with the present contract until August of 2016, which would mean no wage increases for the three years of that contract . He said that the city of Hamilton had requested a fact-finder after the two parties had reached agreement on most of the items in the current contract, but could not move past eight articles and three appendices of the agreement.

According to the submitted report, the union seeks a three percent increase for each of the three years of the new labor agreement, and that the disputed articles of the current agreement carry over to the new labor agreement unmodified.

“The City requests a 3-year wage freeze and several changes to the CBA,” the report continues.

According to the fact-finder’s report, the unresolved articles concerned hours of work, call-in, overtime and premium pay, vacations, employee benefits, general provisions related to rate advancement, longevity benefits, and appendices related to health care plans, hours of work, and pay range schedules.

The State Employment Relations Board Fact-Finder, Barry Goldman, submitted his report on Jan. 22 recommending no change to the current language of the disputed items in the contract except that the term limit be extended to Aug, 31, 2016.

“Put another way, I find for the City with respect to the Union’s proposals, and I find for the Union with respect to the City’s proposals,” he wrote in the report’s conclusion.

City Council rejected the report at the Jan. 28 meeting by a vote of five to zero, with Council Members Tim Naab and Archie Johnson absent that meeting.

Gerrein said that the union had accepted the report, which left off their requested 3 percent wage increase, and had sent a letter to the city requesting that negotiations be resumed.

City Council members did not return calls for comment on their vote. Assistant law director Letitia Block wrote in an email to the Journal-News Thursday that “We (the city of Hamilton) have agreed with the Union not to have any discussions with the media regarding negotiations.”



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