Sunday, June 25, 2000

City may add labor specialist

But job wouldn't be filled now

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — City Manager Steve Sorrell wants permission to hire someone to help improve communications between city employees and their supervisors.

        But, even if City Council approves the emergency ordinance authorizing a one-person employee relations department, Mr. Sorrell doesn't plan to fill the position any time soon.

        “I do not have any intention of filling this position at this time because of the cautious optimism associated with the International Paper merger with Champion Paper,” he said. “If we experience a downturn in the employment in the community because of the merger, then it would not be prudent for me to fill this particular position.”

        “The City Council action (would) only authorize the position and the pay range, but it does not deal with the administrative side of filling the position, which will be a judgment by me based on the overall economy of the city.

        “At this point, I am scrutinizing every personnel request and not filling any position unless they are absolutely critical to city op erations,” Mr. Sorrell said.

        If city officials implement a 3 percent pay hike for nonunion employees on July 1, as expected, the salary for the employee relations post would range from $48,000 to about $62,000.

        Councilwoman Kathy Becker said she cannot support spending money from the general fund to fill the employee relations post or for any reason, unless it's an emergency.

        “It cannot be filled right now. I think we have to take a very close look about where the city is with budget issues,” she said. But, she also said she supports filling the post in the future.

        “Anything we can do to improve relationships with employees and the city is great,” said Ms. Becker.

        Mr. Sorrell said the director of employee relations would be primarily responsible for dealing with collective bargaining, labor issues, grievances and other employee-related activities.

        “We currently do not have anyone on staff who has the specific duties assigned to them,” Mr. Sorrell said.

        The emergency ordinance is expected to receive a second reading at a special City Council meeting at 7:30 a.m. Monday.


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