From staff reports
Ohio University Director of Employee and Labor Relations Linda Lonsinger ruled Monday that AFSCME Local 1699 had not met its burden of proof in a grievance objecting to layoffs of bargaining unit employees last year.
Lonsinger's ruling followed a Jan. 29 hearing at which the union claimed that the layoffs violated the collective bargaining agreement and the Ohio Revised Code. Specifically, the bargaining unit claimed that the university did not experience a lack of funds and therefore should not have laid off employees. The union argued that reallocations did not qualify as budget cuts. It also argued that bargaining-unit employees have been singled out for unfair treatment.
The university countered that the September layoffs of 16 custodial workers and five zone maintenance specialists were necessary in the face of overall budget shortfalls and the need to channel funds to meet strategic needs.
In Lonsinger's official response Monday, she agreed with the university, providing supporting documentation that detailed a multi-year decline in state support and increases in expenses, such as benefits. Reallocations, Lonsinger also ruled, were necessary to address safety and financial controls.
"In bad budget times, difficult and painful decisions must be made," Lonsinger wrote in response to the union's grievance. "There is no joy to be had in these decisions. There is only the stark truth that the viability of the institution must be maintained."
In addition, Lonsinger noted that the Ohio Revised Code section that the union cited is clearly exempt in the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. She quoted the passage in the agreement, which states, "Chapter 124, Ohio Revised Code, attendant Department of Administrative Services rules are not applicable to employees covered by this contract."
Finally, Lonsinger's response addressed the issue of unfair treatment. She countered the claim, providing an attachment that showed declines in the number of employees of all classifications except faculty.
AFSCME Local 1699 Dave Logan said this morning the union would appeal the decision.
The union has 20 calendar days to file an appeal, after which an arbitrator agreeable to both parties would be named. The arbitrator -- a lawyer with labor relations experience – would conduct a hearing, at which the union and the university could present evidence and call witnesses. The arbitrator then would render a final, binding decision within 30 days.
Since the layoffs occurred, two of the five affected zone maintenance employees have been recalled to their previous positions, two bumped to a lower job classification and one chose layoff.
Of the 16 affected custodial workers, three have been recalled, seven chose layoff (including one who moved into a higher classification that he bid on and was awarded) and two bumped to a lower classification. The remaining four refused recall to their previous positions and chose to stay in the departmental classification that they selected in the bumping process, maintaining their classification and pay.
This story was updated at 11:27 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, to provide additional information.