Phase I bargaining yet to commence

City waiting to implement staff reorganization plan

Clint Riese
News Editor

Mandatory bargaining meetings regarding the city of Forest Lake’s recently approved staff reorganization have yet to take place. In fact, they are yet to be scheduled, said City Administrator Aaron Parrish on Monday.

The plan calls for 15 positions to be eliminated and 15 created over four phases. The City Council signed off on the entire concept Oct. 4 but will need to grant approval to each phase as they come.

The first phase was also approved last Monday. It involves replacing the Building Department’s three positions, along with the building maintenance supervisor and custodian positions. Five new positions would all have Fire Department responsibilities. Two of the five would also have building inspection duties, and two others would have custodial duties.

Though council approval is secured, none of the five current positions can be cut before city officials meet with labor unions.

The employees who would be affected by Phase I belong to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. A second group, the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, represents five employees whose jobs are on the chopping block in later phases. A third group, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, represents two workers who will be affected in Phase III.

Last week, MAPE sent a letter to city officials stating that many of the plan’s components require mutual consent. From MAPE’s end, that consent is not likely to be forthcoming, the letter said.

Parrish said the letter did not catch its recipients off-guard.

“The letter gave the indication that we are not aware of it and we certainly are,” he said of the union’s right to bargain the impacts of the reorganization.

Parrish said the city disagrees with several points the letter made, but he hopes to address differences around the table.

“Our philosophy is it would be better to be working through this in bargaining, and we need to get to that point,” he said.

He also disputed the notion that the reorganization could have been worked into the recently completed collective bargaining agreement between the city and MAPE.

“At the point at which we finalized that, the reorganization proposal had not been developed or brought forward,” Parrish said.