Engineer strikes back at union following strike notice
By JUSTIN WIEr
Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti provided a pointed response to a strike notice issued by Teamsters Local 377, which represents 44 employees in the engineer’s office.
“These employees are among the highest-paid regional county engineer’s offices in the state, and based on this, it is important that the services delivered to the citizens of Mahoning County reflect that fact,” he said in a statement sent to news media.
It goes on to say a number of impediments in the current labor contract prevent the delivery of public services efficiently and effectively and stand in the way of holding employees accountable when they fail to do their jobs.
The Teamsters voted Wednesday to issue the 10-day strike notice, and a potential strike could begin as soon as April 9.
Ginnetti said his goal is to resolve the dispute and his office would continue to deliver services to Mahoning County residents in the event of a work stoppage.
The strike notice followed a vote last week by the Mahoning County commissioners to reject a fact-finding report at Ginnetti’s advice.
Ralph Sam Cook, secretary and treasurer of Teamsters Local 377, said that led to “frustration” because the engineer’s legal counsel chose to go to the fact-finder, then rejected his report.
He added that the fact finder declined to recommend about 90 percent of the changes Ginnetti requested, which included changes to scheduling and overtime pay.
“We didn’t even get to discuss everything before we went to fact finding,” Cook said. “Not everything was discussed thoroughly like it should have been.”
The fact finder also recommended maintaining the majority of the current contract language regarding discipline.
“That language has been in there for years and years and years, and he’s never brought it up before,” Cook said.
The fact finder did agree with Ginnetti’s assertion that those at the top of the wage schedule are among the highest-paid employees at regional county engineer’s offices.
Those hired before 2008 make between $51,000 and $64,000. Those hired after 2008 earn starting salaries as low as $27,300 and maximum salaries as high as $48,000, according to the current contract.
Cook said that eventually all employees will be earning salaries in the lower wage schedule, and no employee has received a raise in two years.
The union employees perform road maintenance for the engineer’s office that includes plowing snow and filling potholes.
They have been without a contract since April 2017. Ginnetti said his representative has offered multiple dates to continue negotiations, but the union has elected to issue a strike notice rather than respond.
“I don’t know if that means they don’t want to go back to the table or what,” Ginnetti said.
Cook said the union’s goal is to reach an agreement that both parties are happy with.
The union has also drawn attention to the county’s decision to have an outside law firm represent the engineer’s office rather than using someone at the prosecutor’s office.
Ginnetti said it is not uncommon and the same Akron legal firm has negotiated previous contracts on behalf of the county.
He noted that the Teamsters have also hired an attorney.