City Of Ocala Employees Vote To Unionize
OCALA - They felt helpless when their pension benefits reduced, so City of Ocala have decided to act together. They voted this week to unionize. Not all city employees are being affected, as police and firefighters were already unionized but for some of those eligible to vote, they say it's the circumstances that drove them to seek representation that worry them.
A unified voice is what some city of Ocala employees are asking for. Out of about 400 city employees eligible to vote, 203 were in favor of being unionized, while 97 disagreed. Hector Delvalle who is a lead Park Ranger with Ocala is one of the 97 employees who voted against the union. "I just moved here from California. I was a member of the union and my experience with the union in California they did not do anything for us," Delvalle said.
Jeannine Robbins a spokesperson for the City of Ocala says the employees will be represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1205, from Gainesville. "Until both sides ratify an agreement, the city's current policies and procedures as they relate to the employees will remain intact," she added.
While the votes were in favor to unionize, it’s not final until after a 15 day waiting period where either side can challenge the results of the election if they choose to.
The vote to unionize coincides with a recent pension reform that reduced benefits for many employees. I talked to a couple who tell me they are unhappy with upper management.
While they wished not to go on camera, they tell me it's been about 5 years since they've had a raise. Something city leaders blame on the economy, “The city is required by law to make contributions to the pension and it was becoming increasingly more difficult to make that work when we aren't receiving that much revenue from the tax base... So it was really a matter of necessity," Robbins said.
But Delvalle doesn't think a union will make much more of a difference. "Even if the union goes and propose, the city council will have the last vote. So I don't think the union is going to help, I hope they can but I don't think so,” Delvalle said.
Robbins says that there's certainly a concern for that group to have voted for a union to represent them, however she said, "Our job now is to move forward and work with them and see what we can do to come to a place where everyone is comfortable."
Once the Public Employee Relations Committee has certified the new decision, the city will wait for a demand for collective bargaining from the union. Negotiating a contract can take up to a year or longer.
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