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Vote on Teamsters contract tabled after dispute over cell phone stipend

Published February 18. 2011 05:00PM

What began as a discussion to approve the Mahoning Township's 2011-2014 Teamsters contract for township employees ended up being tabled when some of the supervisors rejected some of the final terms introduced into the contract during negotiations. At issue was the language for the reimbursement of cell phone expenses to the Road Crew Leader as well as claims by Supervisor Travis Steigerwalt that he was not kept apprised during the process of the negotiations, a claim that did not sit well with Chairman John Wieczorek.

"This board was briefed on every step of the negotiation," said Wieczorek during the discussion that became somewhat animated before it ended.

"You didn't tell us everything that was going on," Steigerwalt said in response to Wieczorek's statement which was directed at him and Supervisor Frank Ruch who negotiated the contract.

Ruch refuted the claim telling Steigerwalt, "You did know about the meeting because I mentioned it at our meeting two weeks ago." Wieczorek added the only difference since that meeting was the phrasing regarding the cell phone stipend of $240 a year which is $20 a month.

Wieczorek began the discussion by reviewing the terms of the four year contract which included a three percent increase in the first two years and a three and a half percent increase the last two years. The clothing allowance for the road crew was increased to $150 from $100 in the last contract. He added that the road crew would be a subsidy toward medical insurance the first two years of one and three fourths percent, but the last two years would be covered by the township.

What began the debate was when Wieczorek mentioned the $240 stipend for the cell phone. Supervisor George Stawnyczyj questioned the payment which was to be made on January 31st each year of the contract to the road crew supervisor. "This isn't what we discussed. We agreed to $20 a month," said Stawnyczyj, "not a lump payment of $240. What would happen if the supervisor left the position during the year? Wouldn't someone else be entitled to the stipend?"

Wieczorek said it divided out to $20 per month, but Stawnyczyj reiterated that wasn't what the contract is stating. "Is this a bait and switch? We agreed to $20 a month, not $240 paid once a year."

Ruch commented he understood what Stawnyczyj was concerned about, but by that time Steigerwalt also began questioning the process claiming he wasn't aware of all the meetings and decisions.

"That's not true, Travis," Ruch said. "I mentioned our session on the 27th at the last supervisor's meeting during the officials reports. You heard me say it."

Steigerwalt backed off the comment, but then retorted that he felt the increases were too much. He told them how he believed people are struggling and no one is getting that kind of increase currently.

Wieczorek responded that the statement was not correct. "Teachers and other employees are getting that type of increase. It isn't out of line with what people are receiving. To say no one is getting an increase is wrong."

Steigerwalt said he felt that the other supervisors should have been able to attend the negotiations. Supervisor Linda Benner spoke out and said that when she and Steigerwalt negotiated the contract with the police, the other supervisors were not in attendance. "We entrusted John and Frank to do this and I think they did okay."

Ruch pointed out that if the board was there any agreement they made during the negotiation may have been binding and that this protected the board from being put on the spot. Steigerwalt said he wasn't sure about that claim.

In the end, Ruch said he agreed with Stawnyczyj that perhaps the language should be modified with regard to the stipend and when it became apparent most of the board was reluctant to approve it as it read, he asked for a motion to table it until the issue could be discussed with the union. The motion carried unanimously.

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