LABOR DISPUTE Court upholds the union's view on 6 layoffs
The city was late in appealing an arbitrator's decision.
WARREN -- The 11th District Court of Appeals has affirmed a ruling against Girard and in favor of its municipal employee union, which had disputed the way six jobs were terminated three years ago.
Mayor James Melfi said the dispute, which centered on retaining part-timers when full-timers were not working, is over now because their job recall rights have expired.
But union spokesman John Migliozzi, president of American Federation of State, County & amp; Municipal Employees Local 3356, disagreed.
"According to us, those people were never laid off legally to begin with, so we feel our people should at least be asked to come back," he said. "Then, there might even be recourse for back pay."
Girard had appealed a Trumbull County Common Pleas ruling that the court didn't have jurisdiction to consider the city's motion to vacate an arbitration award in favor of the union.
How it started
The parties approved a collective bargaining agreement, and then the city in 2002 experienced financial troubles. To alleviate some of these, the city terminated some full-time employee-members of AFSCME but retained some part-time employees, who were not members of the union.
The city was facing a $2 million deficit and remains today under a state-imposed fiscal emergency. Melfi said the layoffs were made in December 2001. Part-timers remained at the time in other jobs but they were not AFSCME part-timers, he said.
Migliozzi said those laid off were four full-time meter reader/laborers, one semi-skilled street department worker and one senior citizen van driver position.
AFSCME filed a grievance with the city alleging the terminations violated the bargaining agreement. The city denied the grievance; AFSCME submitted the matter to final, binding arbitration.
The union produced a 1983 agreement under a past administration that states if full-time layoffs occur, part-timers in any department are to be furloughed. The arbiter accepted this, Melfi said. In a decision dated Dec. 20, 2002, the arbiter ruled in favor of AFSCME.
March 24, 2003, the city filed an application in common pleas court to vacate the arbitration award; AFSCME filed for a confirmation of the arbitration award. The trial court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to consider the city's motion, and it confirmed the arbitration award.
The city argued to the appeals court that the trial court confirmed the arbitration award without considering merits of the case.
The appeals court said notice of a motion to vacate, modify, or correct an award must be served within three months after the award is delivered. The Supreme Court of Ohio has held that when an action is not filed within the three-month period, the trial court lacks jurisdiction to consider the motion.
The arbitration award was postmarked Dec. 21, 2002. The city had until March 21, 2003, to comply with the requirements of the Ohio Revised Code. The city filed its motion to vacate the arbitration award on March 24, 2003. The trial court, then, was correct in determining that the motion was untimely filed. Also, the appeals court said the city had a duty to serve notice upon AFSCME within the three-month period.
Judge Judith A. Christley concurred with Judge William M. O'Neill while Judge Diane V. Grendell dissented.