Contract Talks Headed To Fact-Finding

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Negotiators have been unable to reach agreement on a new labor contract at the Athens County Engineer's Department and the talks are now headed to fact-finding.

Under that process, each side will present its positions on the unresolved issues to a fact-finder appointed by the State Employment Relations Board. The fact-finder will issue a report recommending solutions.

County Engineer Jeff Maiden said a fact-finding hearing has not yet been scheduled.

In a Nov. 6 letter to SERB, the county's labor attorney notified the agency that the two sides had selected attorney Jonathan I. Klein of Shaker Heights to serve as fact-finder. He was picked from a SERB list.

Klein is to conduct a hearing and issue a written report no later than Nov. 21, unless both sides agree to a time extension, according to SERB.

Maiden would not discuss what contract issues are separating the two sides, saying they had agreed not to discuss the negotiations publicly while they are ongoing. Workers are represented by Local 103 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and The Messenger was unable Wednesday afternoon to reach AFSCME staff representative Gary Arnold.

According to Maiden, negotiations started in early July. The existing labor contract expired Sept. 1, but Maiden said employees continue to work under terms of that contract.

Earlier in the negotiations, a SERB mediator was appointed to assist. Maiden said one session was held with the mediator, but it did not result in a contract settlement.

According to SERB's fact-finding guidebook, once the fact-finder issues a report with recommendations for settling the disputed issues, each side must vote on whether to accept or reject the report in its entirety.