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Case-Hoyt challenges rehiring order

Case-Hoyt Corp. is asking a federal judge to reverse a May arbitration order directing it to rehire laid-off union workers.
The company’s attorney says the case boils down to whether Case-Hoyt can take its own evaluation of workers into account in deciding who to downsize or whether it should go strictly by seniority.
A union official, meanwhile, promises to take the case “as far as we have to,” vowing to make seniority “a street issue” in the next round of contract talks.
As reported previously in the Rochester Business Journal, a National Labor Relations Board arbitrator in May told the Rochester printing firm to rehire 18 members of Graphic Communications International Union Local 503-M who had been terminated as part of a 140-worker downsizing in 1993.
The arbitration order called for Case-Hoyt to put the workers back on the job by June 8.
It also directed the company to pay the workers back wages and benefits covering some six months between their layoffs in October and November of 1993 and the April 30, 1994, expiration date of their contract.
Case-Hoyt’s attorney argues in a brief filed Monday that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by substituting his own terms for the actual contract provisions under which the decision should have been made.
That contract states that the company can take “relative ability” into account in making layoff decisions, the brief states. The filing also cites a 1991 case in which another arbitrator upheld the relative-ability provision.
The relative-ability clause is one the union has never approved of, said Local 503-M president Lynn Lanphear. Since union members have to achieve specific levels of competence to be certified apprentices or journeymen, seniority is a fair standard, he said. A term like relative ability, on the other hand, opens members to being judged by vague standards such as teamwork and leadership ability.
The original layoffs came shortly after the Miami-based Avanti Press bought the then-financially troubled Case-Hoyt. The GCIU initially protested the terminations of 63 union workers, and sought arbitration over 18 of those cases after the NLRB ruled against it in the first protest.
Two weeks ago, Lanphear told the Rochester Business Journal that he had been encouraged by earlier talks with Case-Hoyt president William Turri and Avanti CEO Joe Ariola. Ariola and Turri had indicated that the company intends to add staff, he said.
Lanphear said he was disappointed but not surprised by the company’s move. The union local’s attorney is preparing a response to Case-Hoyt’s action.

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