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City workers get aid with new realities

Mayor Tom Henry, Councilman Glynn Hines, Councilman John Shoaff and I led the recent effort to oppose City Council Republicans from ending our collective bargaining system for most city employees.

This is a system that had been in place for 40 years and had brought positive reforms to the old political patronage system, brought dignity to the workplace for thousands of city employees, and saved taxpayers money because of a more highly skilled and efficient workforce.

Unfortunately, despite our efforts and Henry's veto of this divisive and unnecessary legislation, City Council Democrats were not successful in preventing basic rights from being taken away from city workers.

The Journal Gazette editorial page recently stated that a plan to ease the pain of city employees, affected by the actions of City Council Republicans, should be explored. Henry is already in the process of addressing this and has been working on a strategy to protect our workers since his veto was overridden on June 24.

Throughout this entire process, the council super-majority rejected repeated calls from Henry, council Democrats, taxpayers and business leaders for a comprehensive study of the issue. Instead, the ordinance to end collective bargaining was rushed through without ample public input or sufficient data to support the position.

As we work through these recent challenges, I applaud the mayor and his administration for its proactive efforts to protect the interests of employees.

Residents and businesses understand the importance of valuing employees who commit themselves each day to providing quality, affordable and lifesaving services.

I am pleased that Henry is addressing the concerns of employees. A committee is in place that is taking necessary steps to ensure employees are protected and aware of the effect of the recent changes and what future changes will have to occur. In addition, the city will withhold union dues from those employees who remain members of a union and who choose to have dues deducted from their pay.

All grievances that were filed prior to City Council's action on June 24 are being processed according to the union contracts in place at the time of the filing. The Ccty of Fort Wayne will also honor requests to arbitrate any grievances filed prior to June 24. For disciplinary matters arising after June 24, the existing pre-deprivation procedure applies to all employees. Henry is working, however, to investigate and potentially develop other solutions for these situations.

Another consequence of City Council's elimination of collective bargaining is that business agents no longer have the right to conduct their business during employees' work hours.

They may continue to represent employees for grievances filed before June 24.

When conducting business with members, it has to be on the employees' down time. However, the city is committed to maintaining an open dialogue and will continue to communicate and welcome ideas as we work through this transition together.

Henry and Council Democrats are strong advocates for our award-winning city employees, and we are doing everything possible to protect our skilled workforce.

Now more than ever, we must rally together as a city to focus on investing in the future.

We must be a leader in job growth and retention, enhancing our quality of life, and remain committed to strengthening our neighborhoods. We are part of a great city. To win the future and keep the positive momentum rolling in our community, we must work together.