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Contract talks in Austintown must face up to fiscal reality

Published: Thu, November 19, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

The president of the largest bargaining unit in Austintown Township government says the one thing he does not want to see happen in contract talks is a reduction in manpower. It suggests a recognition on the part of Lt. Tom Collins, head of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 126, that his union will have to make concessions in order to save jobs.

It should make negotiations between the township and its four bargaining units — FOP, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 3356, Teamsters Local 377 and Ohio Patrolman’s Benevolent Association Dispatch Unit — relatively straightforward. After all, township government has nothing to give — other than a commitment to soften the blow of the national economic recession that has been felt throughout the country.

Thus, if Lt. Collins and the other presidents of the unions want to ensure that manpower levels are not drastically reduced, they should be prepared to go the bargaining table with proposals to enable government to make up for the $775,000 loss of tangible personal property tax revenue next year and the refusal of voters to approve a five-year, 0.6-mill replacement levy.

Dave Schertzer, IAFF president, echoed Collins’ sentiments about preserving jobs, saying, “I think we all need to sit down and see where they’re at with their money and hopefully find a common ground. We want to make sure we keep all of our guys working.”

It should clear to all township employees, just as it has been clear to most private sector workers, that pay raises are no longer part of workplace vocabulary. Indeed, concessions have now become the standard during contract negotiations.

Saving jobs

If the goal of the unions in Austintown is to save jobs, they should take to heart these comments from Trustee David Ditzler, who easily won re-election in the Nov. 3 general election:

“A wage freeze is one real possibility. Right now we’re probably balancing the budget by the skin of our teeth, and in 2010 that will be a much different scenario. ... Hopefully we’ll agree to the current salary and benefits, or maybe the current salary and benefits are reduced. Everybody would maintain their hourly wages ... the process of overtime, minimum manning requirements, health care and the percentage of co-pay could change.”

The comments were published in a Vindicator story Saturday about the upcoming contracts talks. It was accompanied by a graphic that showed the pay scale breakdown of each bargaining unit and also the percentage of the health care premiums paid by the employees.

On health care, the co-pay went from 5 percent in 2007 to 10 percent this year.

As for the wages, considering the current fiscal challenges and the median family income in Mahoning County, an objective evaluation leads to this conclusion: Employees of Austintown Township are paid relatively well and should not complain if the new contracts reflect the status quo. In fact, the benefits package they receive makes their employment quite lucrative.

By contrast, holding on to a job in the private sector has become a major challenge.

Public employees would do well to pay attention.


1Tugboat(759 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

The Vindy wrote: 'Public employees would do well to pay attention.'

Why don't they just say that 'if you want to maintain township control of your security apparatus - GIVE - or you'll be a goosestep closer to contracting with the Sheriff's Office.' Either way, the Vindy and certain others in the media will be happy.

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2apollo(1227 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Very simple Tug, the taxpayers are tapped out. Many are losing their jobs. Others are providing givebacks in the form of wage reductions, increased health care contributions, and lessened 401K contributions if they have any at all. For some reason, the public sector had this goofy idea that the economy didn't effect them. This is the new reality and like I've been saying all along, it effects the public sector too. Get used to it, this is just the beginning!

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3ubotherme(53 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Tug, appall-0 is a moron, no matter what he's talking about.

Doom and gloom is his game. How, I wonder, does he explain the voters' passage of a levy to maintain police and fire services in Boardman in the face of such economic troubles?

If things are so bad, how does this happen?

The public sector he is so fond of bashing and is so jealous of has been doing just as much as possible to "play along" when idiotic community leaders call for concessions and cutbacks.

The economy does affect the public sector. Unfortunately, politics impacts the public sector more often, more quickly and with much more gravity than the rest of the community.

Public servants deal with all this, every day while they strive to uphold their committment to our safety and our society.

None of these fine men and women are above the law. they want nothing more than decent pay, good benefits and the likelihood of returning home to their families at the end of their shifts and ultimately at the end of their careers.

I simply can't argue with that.

Anyone on these boards who demeans our public employees' vocations hasn't a hair on their pathetic arses enough to say anything of the sort to their faces, let alone walk a mile in their shoes.

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4apollo(1227 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

I would have no qualms saying to anyones face that they are overpaid and under worked. $122,000 for a cop is ridiculous. 38 vacation days. All the perks and bennies. For police work that is about as easy as it gets. How many Boardman cops have been hurt in the line of duty? The minimum wage lady at Circle K has a tougher more dangerous job.

The same tired old, Apollo is jealous routine! LOL. If it makes you feel better.

Voters passed that levy BEFORE the financial meltdown and with the promise of more cops. Plus it was half of the original request from a year earlier.

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5ubotherme(53 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

what in the world are you talking about? the levy was passed in the midst of the meltdown. or are you so blinded by the leight (oooh..i like that one) that you think the "meltdown" is real and it just started AFTER we gave MORE money?????

I wish I could resist arguing with you. I admit it: I can't. you are such an idiot.

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