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The Suburbanite
  • Union workers offered $7,000 in retire/rehire settlement

  • Eighteen Canton union workers have until Friday to accept a $7,000 settlement following an investigation into the retirement and rehiring of the workers. They will not get their jobs back.

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  • Eighteen city employees who lost their jobs last year following a probe of retire-rehire practices each have until Friday to accept a $7,000 settlement reached recently between the city and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
    They won’t get their jobs back.
    The union’s role will end if the employees choose not to accept the deal, which was reached after multiple mediation sessions. The union will not ask for arbitration if an individual rejects the offer. City Council also has to approve the settlement.
    “We recommended that the offer be accepted,” said Robert L. Thompson Sr., regional director for AFSCME. “It’s an individual decision. If they choose not to accept the offer the grievance is withdrawn based upon the settlement. Each individual has to sign off on the settlement if they want to and then the union’s role ends.”
    Ten non-union employees have sued the city to return to work and for lost back-pay. Their case is pending in front of a visiting judge in the Stark County Common Pleas Court.
    A total of 30 employees were fired last year for retiring to collect a pension with the intention of staying employed to collect a salary. The process is known as retire-rehire and is legal in Ohio. However, the employees were not properly rehired by their appointing authorities and continued to receive the same pay and benefits.
    The city says the workers forfeited their civil service positions without going through the civil service exam procedures. Officials have called the firings “legal separations” that were not an act of discipline.
    Under the agreement reached with the union, the situation will not be held against the affected workers if they choose to apply for a job with the city.
    “We took it to mediation,” Thompson said. “We had a mediator present. We discussed the issues and this is the decision we reached. We agreed to the terms.”
    Service Director Warren Price said the union agreed not to seek arbitration as part of the settlement.
    “In the case of all of our AFSCME members affected by the retire-rehire situation, the result would be for those who accept the settlement it would be the end of any litigation, whether it be in court or before an arbitrator,” he said. “It would resolve the matter and end it.”
    Price said he did not know what legal remedies individual members who reject the settlement would have other than to sue the city.
    Leroy E. Lynch, who worked in the water department, said he and other former workers who learned about the offer at a union meeting last week are upset that the settlement does not return them to work. He believes the city mishandled the situation.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Most people are very upset,” he said. “I don’t think there are many who will take it. The city is not accepting anyone back, but the city is at fault.”
    Lynch also addressed City Council about the settlement Monday, telling them he wants to return to his job, but wants the $7,000.
    Reach Matthew at 330-580-8527 or matthew.rink@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @mrinkREP
    mrink 4/8/13 BOX
    WHAT IT MEANS
    THE ISSUE: 18 former union workers file grievances against city of Canton over 2012 firings for retire-rehire practices.
    THE RESOLUTION: During mediation, city offers settlement to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to resolve claims.
    THE OFFER: City pays $7,000 per employee, but they will not return to work. Each employee has until Friday to accept offer. Union agrees it won’t take issue to arbitration. City agrees it won’t hold retire-rehire mistakes against workers if they apply for new job.
    THE OTHERS: 10 non-union employees who were fired are fighting for their jobs in Stark County Common Pleas Court. Case is pending.