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Union sues city for parks workers

A union representing some of the city’s parks employees is suing Fort Wayne and its Parks Department for allegedly violating its collective bargaining agreement.

And its lawsuit against the city was filed the same day two City Council members made it clear they want that same collective bargaining agreement eliminated.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 723 filed the lawsuit against the city, Mayor Tom Henry, Parks Director Al Moll and the three Parks Commissioners on May 9.

That night, City Council began discussing upcoming ordinance proposals from Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, and John Crawford, R-at large, that would largely eliminate the current relationship the city has with its unions.

While the timing of the lawsuit comes when tensions between unions and the City Council is high, a spokesman for the IBEW said the lawsuit has been in process for a long time.

In fact, according to Bruce Getts, the union’s business representative, the issues date back to June.

That’s when the union claims Moll and others violated the union’s contract with the city, according to the suit.

The collective bargaining agreement the union had made with the city expired that month but was supposed to be in effect “unless either party gives the other party not less than 60 days by registered mail.”

In September, Getts met with City Attorney Carol Helton. She hand-delivered a note that said the agreement would be terminated on Dec. 31 and changes would be implemented.

Getts claims that was not the proper notification – that it should have come as a registered letter – and he never opened it.

In the suit, the union claims the city then changed policies regarding paid sick days, accrual of vacation days and other benefits.

According to the suit, the union’s members have “suffered and continue to suffer harm as a result of the city’s failure to bargain in good faith and its treatment of the CBA as canceled prior to the conclusion of the bargaining process.”

Still, Getts, the union spokesman, said everything might not end up being a big deal, and could be as simple as getting an injunction out of the judge.

“It’s not about money or anything else,” Getts said. “It’s just about the (the city) doing what they are supposed to be doing.”

City officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.