Teamsters express concerns about contract negotiations



Local 377 opposes paying health-care premiums without a cap on costs.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
POLAND -- Mahoning County engineers' employees represented by Teamsters Local 377 used the county commissioners' meeting to voice their displeasure over contract negotiations.
Negotiations are scheduled at 10 a.m. Thursday between the Teamsters and the county.
Robert Bernat, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 377, spoke on behalf of the 71-member union, about 20 of whom attended Tuesday's commissioners' meeting here.
"This is an important issue -- and an important political issue for you [commissioners] -- because people want the public sector to be more responsible with their money," Bernat said.
Bernat said the Teamsters last week rejected a fact finders' report because, "It's a mess."
Bernat said the county is seeking a 10 percent co-pay on health-insurance premiums from union members, but without a cap on the total cost.
According to the fact finders' report, the Teamsters' contract was effective May 1, 2002, through April 30, 2005. The county presented a final offer to the union April 29. The union rejected the offer, and impasse was declared.
Mediation hearings scheduled by the State Employment Relations Board were held in July.
Specific worries
"In April, 10 percent was $60 a month; in August it was $106," Bernat said. "What will we face in 2006 and 2007?"
Bernat said union members want a cap on health-care premiums so they can plan for increases.
"Can we do some type of cap so we know how much it's going to be -- so we can budget our homes?"
The Teamsters are also displeased that the county has hired an outside firm to assist in negotiations. Bernat said the county hired lawyers when it could use assistant prosecutors and be reimbursed for the cost.
Mahoning County Engineer Richard Marsico said the firm -- Clemens-Nelson Associates Inc. of Columbus -- is not a law firm, but rather, a private consulting firm. He said his department is not using county assistant prosecutors to assist in negotiations because the county prosecutor told him not to.
Commissioners did not comment on the negotiations during the meeting. Commissioner President Anthony Traficanti said after the meeting that negotiations are between the Teamsters and the engineer's office, and he declined to comment.
tullis@vindy.com

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