Unions raise questions about health department mergers, Sommerville promises answers

October 05, 2010

Two union presidents whose members are Akron Health Department employees spoke before Council Monday night to express concerns about the merger of the Akron and Summit County Health Departments.

Chuck Victor, president of the Civil Service Personnel Association, and Jeanine Jones, president of the Akron Nurses Association, conveyed concerns about their members who being told to expect pay cuts, increased costs for benefits and loss of seniority when the merger occurs.

Responding to their comments, Council members discussed convening a special session of the Health and Social Service Committee and asking the administration to investigate the issues and report back to Council within 30 days. However, Council President Marco Sommerville said 30 days was too long to wait.

“Our city has received great service from a great health department for many years, and this nebulousness about their future is a disservice. I will talk to the Mayor. I won’t wait 30 days, and I will get answers to your questions,” Sommerville said.

Victor said that job security is of paramount concern. He said that the recommendations of the Feasibility Study presented to Council before it voted for the merger are not being followed.

The study said that all city workers should have comparable jobs with the county, and annual salaries should remain the same. Victor said city workers are being told they will have to interview for jobs, be new hires subject to probationary periods, accept pay cuts, and pay more for health care benefits.

“A 21-person committee conducted the Feasibility Study on which Council approved the merger, and we owe it to them to follow their recommendation and the spirit of their intentions,” he said.

Jones echoed Victor’s concerns.

“I’ve learned that 11 of 16 nurses will have their salaries cut. My faith has been shaken, and the citizens of Akron may suffer as well,” she said.

The merger of the Akron and Barberton Health Departments with the Summit County Health Department is set for completion beginning Jan. 1, 2011.