Arbitrator upholds Ramsey County Reduced Hours Program

On February 11, 2013, Arbitrator Carol Berg O’Toole determined that Ramsey County did not violate its CBA with AFSCME Council 5, Local 70 at its Lake Owasso Residence when it reduced hours of employees based on seniority.  In response to significant budget constraints, Ramsey County implemented a facility-wide rebid of jobs based on seniority for new schedules with less hours.  The result of the rebid was that employees with more seniority were able to secure jobs with more hours of work, and those with lesser seniority received the fewest number of scheduled hours.  Arbitrator O’Toole recognized that the rebid process might have harmed specific union members, but determined the rebid was in accordance with management rights and it did not violate the language of the applicable CBA.

Of note, the arbitrator stated that the ills that the union sought to rectify could not be fixed in arbitration:  “Much of what is complained of cannot be fixed by a Union, . . .  Neither can an arbitrator make employees [whole] . . . when such loss is the result of budget shortfall instead of a violation of the [Collective Bargaining] Agreement.”

Attorney Wiley notes that it is  likely that a number of similar grievances, with similar results, will be working through the pipeline as the economy continues its slow recovery.