Police could not seek union representation until Columbiana achieved city status.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
COLUMBIANA -- Even without sleep, Jim Ewing was smiling.
"Oh my, there's no comparison," Ewing said when asked to compare the benefits of the police department's first labor agreement to previous wage and benefit packages.
Ewing is a 19-year veteran and one of two sergeants on the Columbiana police force. He worked until 3 a.m. Friday and then attended council's 8 a.m. special meeting where legislators voted 4-0 in favor of the labor agreement.
The three-year contract is retroactive to Jan. 1.
Columbiana police have been anticipating union representation for years. They could not seek a bargaining unit, however, until after Columbiana's population topped 5,000, necessary for city status.
In the 1990 census, the population count was more than 4,900. The U.S. Census 2000 figures showed Columbiana's population at 5,635.
Ewing said without union support, discussing wages and benefits with city officials was "almost always a begging process, and the answer was usually no."
"There are vast improvements across the board," he said. "We're very pleased. We've been told the first union contract is always the toughest, and we've made some significant gains."
How pact is viewed
City Manager Keith Chamberlin and Richard Gortz, the city's labor relations representative, both said the city's first union agreement will be fair an equitable for both sides.
"This was all new to us," Chamberlin said. "It was a learning process for everyone."
Jeff Perry, business agent for the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said council's approval Friday of a fact finder's report and a unanimous approval by straw vote Wednesday from the department's nine full-time patrolmen, four full-time dispatchers and two full-time sergeants means both sides are now in full agreement on all issues.
He said the city should receive a draft copy of the contract within a week, and then both parties can sign it.
Ewing said OPBA and the city began negotiations in October and reached impasse in December with 23 issues unresolved. After a mediation period, both sides agreed on all but six points, which then became the focus of the fact finder's report.
He said the parties met 16 times, often in all-day sessions.