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WORKERS' COMP City denies union's drug-testing grievance



Published: Fri, May 6, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The union has the option of taking the matter to arbitration.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- City officials have denied a grievance filed by the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees accusing the mayor of violating its contract by imposing random drug testing.

Jerry Lambert, safety-service director, said he met with union officials Thursday and told them the grievance had been denied.

"Now they will have to decide if they want to take this to arbitration," Lambert said.

He said he hopes the two sides can come to an agreement without seeking arbitration.

AFSCME officials could not be reached to comment. The 28-member union represents street, sewage and water departments, the auditor's office and other office workers not affiliated with safety forces.

Saving

The grievance was filed last week after Mayor James Melfi said that all city employees will be required to participate in random drug testing, part of a program that will save the city more than $100,000 a year in workers' compensation costs.

The mayor wants to take part in the Drug Free Workplace Program, offered by the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. He is not sure when the testing will start but says he and Municipal Court Judge Michael Bernard will be tested first.

About 10 employees a year will be selected for testing, Melfi said.

Last week the police and fire unions, court employees, administrators and council members agreed to take part in the program.

According to the mayor, the city would pay $732,011 for workers' compensation if it doesn't take part in the program. Adopting the drug testing program lowers the premium to $622,852.

In three years, the city would save about $330,000 by taking part in the program, he said.

In addition to the financial benefits, random drug testing will boost public confidence in the city's employees, the mayor has said.

Several council members said they agree with the program.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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