Deals to halt negotiations have been reached with the Elyria Firefighters Local 474, Elyria Police Patrolman’s Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Labor Council representing the Elyria police dispatchers and ASFCME Local 277.
The contracts with the dispatchers and ASFCME now run through the end of the year with the patrol officers’ contract going to December 2015. The firefighters’ contract will be up for talks again in June, but it includes a one-year pay freeze. All of the contracts expired in June of this year.
“I am so very pleased to say that all of our employee groups understand the financial challenges the city is facing and are working with the city administration to reach practical agreements that allow us to offer the best possible services with limited resources,” Mayor Holly Brinda said. “The pay freeze offered by firefighters coupled with the willingness by police to make concessions related to employee contributions to health care and to continue the conversation regarding eliminating or limiting longevity are among many important steps we are taking toward both short-term and long-term cost containment.”
Fire union President Dean Marks said nailing down an agreement this year that was sensitive to the city’s financial state was easy for his group.
“We realize the city is trying to recover and move in the right direction,” he said. “We have to make sure the income tax passes or this city will do nothing but go backward. Really, it’s more important to us to have guys on the job and not a small raise. But it’s not just us. We don’t want to see any layoffs in the city.”
The city and unions have agreed to resume negotiations in late 2013 and early 2014. That will allow officials time to determine the outcome of the much-needed income tax renewal.
Finance Director Ted Pileski said without knowing how voters will vote in November — a positive outcome will allow the city to continue to receive $6 million annually in income tax — the negotiations would have had to work from a worst-case scenario standpoint.
“If Issue 5 does not pass and Issue 6 fails — meaning we cannot go back on the ballot until November 2014 — we have to automatically start the budgeting process with me estimating $3 million less in our revenue stream,” he said.
Issue 5 deals with the city’s five-year, temporary 0.5 percent income tax while Issue 6 is the companion piece City Council put on the ballot that would amend the city charter to define a municipal election to include both primary and general elections. If approved, that will allow tax issues to go before voters more than once a year.
Brinda said the patrolman’s association has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the city to defer and then resume fact-finding to later this year. The two sides have reached agreements on 21 issues.
Earlier this year, it seemed as if the city and the union were gearing up to take contract negotiations all the way to binding arbitration — the last-ditch effort to reach an agreement in which an outsider reviews proposals from both sides and delivers a binding decision. The union even filed an unfair labor practices grievance against the city with the State Employment Relations Board accusing the city of dragging its feet on contract talks and using the time to allocate all of the $3.4 million windfall money so it was not available for pay increases.
Richard Jackson, the city’s assistant safety service director in charge of human resources, said the four union groups represent more than 75 percent of all union employees in the city. Other employees are represented by the ASFCME-health unit and FOP-police supervisors unit. Those particular bargaining agreements expire next year.