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City And FOP Back At Bargaining Table; City Solicitor Issues Opinion On Mayor's Proposed Raises

Michael E. Keating

Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black said Wednesday the city and the Fraternal Order of Police are back at the table negotiating a new contract for the city's police officers.

The talks come after city council delayed a decision this week on Mayor John Cranley's plan to increase salaries for all union workers.

Black said the negotiations began Wednesday morning and were continuing.

"That's the most important thing," Black said. "So hopefully we'll be able to resolve these issues and move on."

Meanwhile, Cincinnati's solicitor Paula Boggs Muething said Cranley's proposal does not violate the city charter or federal or state labor laws.

ORC 4117.10 requires the City Council to approve or reject the submission of a request for funds to implement a collective bargaining agreement. It has been common practice for the City Council, through the budget process, to appropriate funds in anticipation of wage or cost of living adjustments for collective bargaining negotiations. There are no limitations on the Council’s ability to appropriate funds for this purpose, or to otherwise enact legislation benefitting public employees; nor is there a limitation on the Mayor’s ability to introduce such legislation. Chapter 4117 governs public employee’s collective bargaining. Certain unfair labor practices are enumerated in that chapter. The protections and remedies available pursuant to Chapter 4117 are provided to address disputes between the public employer and the public employees’ representative (the union). I am not aware of any dispute between the City and the union regarding this matter.

The solicitor also responded to news reports from Tuesday about a labor dispute involving firefighter in North Olmsted, Ohio.  The state employee relations board (SERB) ruled the firefighters union is that city violated Ohio Revised Code when it attempted to bypass the city's representatives and deal directly with the legislative body.

The North Olmsted decision is inapplicable. In North Olmsted, the city filed an unfair labor practice charge against the fire union. The fire union was in negotiations with the city and sent a letter to the council president, who was not the city’s designated representative, requesting a special meeting to discuss pending grievances and the unresolved collective bargaining agreement. Here, the Mayor’s legislation was sent to the Council Committee and the Union members contacted and present at Council were the authorized representatives.

A council member asked Black Wednesday to respond to the legal opinion from the city solicitor.

"We have no intention at this point in time of pursuing anything with the state employee relations board," Black said. "They would be the ultimate authority on anything related to this.  What the city solicitor has done is responded to a request for an opinion. And I emphasis it's an opinion, and that's how I would treat it."

The opinion seems to contradict Black's memo from last week that suggested the mayor's actions could undermine the city's collective bargaining efforts.

Cranley proposed increasing pay rates by five percent for the next two years, and four percent in the third year.

Council members asked for a delay to learn more about the financial impacts of the increases on the city's budget and concerns about how it would affect collective bargaining.