Local News Politics

Public Works Audit Emphasizes Safety, Manager Changes

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer spoke to hundreds of Metro Public Works and Assets employees Thursday morning to announce the results of the agency’s long-awaited audit. The report emphasizes employee safety and shuffling managers to help improve efficiency and city services.

“Public Works is a quality organization with dedicated employees who keep our city running,” Fischer said in a news release. “The review will help us fine-tune the agency, increase efficiency and make employee-safety a top priority.”

The six month study was commissioned by Fischer in December 2010 and was conducted by a five member group led by Dave Vogel, vice president of the Louisville Water Company. It focused heavily on worker safety and listed several ways to reduce workplace accidents.

Among those recommendations is the safety organization reporting directly to the head of the agency and that the agency perform injury investigations with all employees.

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Fischer Receives Union Nods

Democratic mayoral candidate Greg Fischer accepted endorsements from 29 labor unions Monday. But Fischer’s Republican opponent Hal Heiner says the candidate is not being completely honest with those groups.

Among the unions endorsing Fischer are the United Auto Workers, Boilermakers and Teamsters. Local Teamsters vice president John Stovall says he supports Fischer because the Democrat opposes privatizing city services.

“[The] City of Louisville, right now, and the school board has criteria for people being hired—criminal background checks and all that,” he says. “When you go to privatization, you take all that away. You have to take the company or the management firm that’s running that, that they hire good people—you don’t know.”

In a debate in July, Fischer said he could not categorically rule out privatization if it would save the city money. But, he also said he opposes it and would try to cut costs in other ways first. In the same debate, Heiner said privatizing some services can save money. His campaign spokesperson says Fischer is being duplicitous with unions.

Fischer also again stated his support for two bridges over the Ohio River while accepting the union endorsements. Fischer said two bridges and other construction projects will put union members to work.

“Imagine a future here in the short term, where we go from the arena to Museum Plaza, the bridges, the new VA hospital…that’s a good picture,” he said. “We can do that as we move forward. It’s about jobs.”

On Tuesday, Fischer said he supports building an east-end bridge first, then a downtown bridge years later. Heiner has said the east-end bridge must be built first, but he supports delaying or modifying the downtown bridge and reworked Spaghetti Junction to save money. Independent Jackie Green favors shelving the project while public transportation is improved.

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Teamsters, AFSCME Challenge Furloughs

Two unions, the Teamsters and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are taking legal action against Louisville Metro Government over last year’s four unpaid furlough days for all non-emergency metro employees.

The furloughs saved the city about two million dollars. But the Teamsters and AFSCME say the furloughs their employees took violated their contracts.

“You must lay people off in reverse order of seniority until you’ve reached the point when you can recoup your money,” says Teamsters’ attorney David Leightty

The Louisville Labor-Management Committee is considering AFSCME’s complaint and has issued a ruling in favor of the Teamsters. That ruling now goes to a judge for a legal opinion.

If the court rules for the Teamsters, Metro Government may have to pay union workers for their furloughed days. If that’s the case, Mayor’s spokesperson Chad Carlton says other budget cuts will have to be made.

“Our initial reaction would be that we would resolve this issue, if there is an issue, within the normal budgetary process, which means making our spending and our revenues match up,” he says.

Carlton says he’s not sure how much money was saved from furloughs for Teamsters and AFSCME members.

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Layoffs Possible After Union Lawsuits

After facing its third lawsuit over last month’s budget cuts, Louisville Metro Government is now considering layoffs.

The Teamsters filed suit Friday, saying the city’s cost-cutting furlough program violates their contract with the city.

Some union members have already taken two furlough days. Last month, Mayor Jerry Abramson directed that all non-essential city workers take a total of four furlough days to help close a $20 million budget shortfall.

Teamsters attorney David Leightty says he thinks the city might stop pushing for unions to cut costs.

“I only can speak for the bargaining unit that I represent – the Teamsters. I’m hearing that, I’m not sure of that, and that’s why we’ll reserve a hearing date,” he says. “But if it isn’t necessary, I’m not going to take action that isn’t required.”

Abramson spokesperson Chris Poynter wouldn’t address that claim, saying instead that the mayor resumed meeting with budget advisors Tuesday and layoffs for non union employees are back the table.

“The unions have put us in a very tough situation,” he says. “The bottom line is we have to balance the budget some way.”

The Fraternal Order of Police has filed suit over take-home car fees and some Old Louisville residents have taken legal action to keep a local firehouse open. Hearings in all of the cases are expected in the coming weeks.