SHAMOKIN - A city employee who had been scheduled for furlough will not be laid off.

The grievance filed by Ronald Kerstetter, a street department employee, to keep his job was upheld Jan. 8 by city council, several officials confirmed Friday.

Kerstetter cited language in his union's collective bargaining agreement that says no union employee can be laid off for economic reasons. City solicitor Frank Konopka agreed, according to Councilman Charlie Verano, who oversees the street department.

"He said we had no chance of winning it," Verano said. "He felt it would cost the taxpayers several thousand dollars to even bother to fight it.

"They have a union contract so we have no choice."

Mayor William D. Milbrand said the grievance was upheld by council during executive session at a council workshop.

'Guaranteed no lay-off'

The existing three-year contract between the city and Local 2433 of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ends Dec. 31. It states, "All regular employees i.e. union members are guaranteed no lay-off for the life of this contract because of economic reasons."

Milbrand and Verano said they'd like to see the clause removed from the next contract.

"I think we're going to have to remove it, but that will be a bargaining issue, too," Milbrand said.

"It's a detriment. ... We lost two police officers," Verano said. "It's not going to sit right with the public."

Kerstetter was originally scheduled to have been laid off Monday.

Officers fuloughed

Cpl. Jarrod Scandle, Patrolman Nate Rhodes and part-time special officers Norm Lukoskie and Robert Searls were all furloughed Monday. City council is working to reinstate at least the two full-time officers. Council is expected to reopen the 2014 budget during a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. It's possible the first reading of an updated budget could be approved Tuesday. Another 10 days must pass to allow for public review before the final reading is adopted before the Feb. 15 deadline.

Originally set to begin Jan. 1, the furloughs were delayed two weeks, in Kerstetter's case to serve as official notice per the union contract. Similar contract language does not exist with the police union, but the officers were kept on as a courtesy for that duration, too, city officials said previously.

The furloughs and other measures were approved last month as part of city council's efforts to erase a $616,000-plus deficit and balance the 2014 budget at more than $2.5 million.

Council members must now find new revenue or further slash spending to account for Kerstetter's $21,424 in base salary and combined $9,596.64 in benefits that will remain in the budget. Verano expects it will be addressed during Tuesday's meeting.

Rhodes had also filed a grievance regarding seniority. Milbrand said that grievance is still pending.

Verano is optimistic a solution to the police officer furloughs will be found.

"We're working hard to try and get these guys back. I don't want to get anybody's hopes up, but I think it's going to happen," he said. "I think we're going to turn Shamokin around. It's going to be a lot of work, but we're going to do it."