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County employees ratify new contract offer | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

images-1Published September 13, 2013, 12:00 AM

County employees ratify new contract offer

Employees for St. Louis County who are members of two American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union locals voted in favor of a new contract offer Thursday.

By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune

Employees for St. Louis County who are members of two American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union locals voted in favor of a new contract offer Thursday.

The two unions represent 1,005 of the county’s 1,620 employees.

The union announced Thursday night that members ratified the latest contract with the county.

The deal prevents a strike that was called for on July 31 if a deal couldn’t be worked out.

The sticking point had been a plan to offer future new employees a different contract when it came to accumulated sick leave. The county wanted to reduce the maximum banked sick leave from 1,900 hours to 1,150 hours for new employees. The union countered with 1,500 hours for all employees, present and future, except those who have already earned sick leave over the new cap.

“We forced the county to drop its demand for a divisive two-tier contract,” said Steve Kniefel, who led AFSCME’s negotiating team. “We put the county on notice that AFSCME won’t cave in to union-busting tactics that pit worker against worker.”

Union members voted on the deal at worksites Thursday. They had the option to vote yes and ratify the contract, or vote no and reauthorize a strike.

“We are pleased that the compromise on the key issue of sick leave helped to achieve a settlement and avert a potential strike,” County Administrator Kevin Gray said in a statement. “Clearly a work stoppage would not have been in the best interest of our citizens nor of our employees. We look forward now to returning our full focus to serving the public.”

State mediation efforts failed when county administration rejected a compromise by the union last month. The union set a strike date, but, just days later, county officials announced in a media statement that they would accept the union’s compromise. Some members of the union locals wanted to go back and officially renegotiate the deal, saying it didn’t follow established protocol. But state labor officials ordered the union to hold a vote on the deal as it was.

The county employees have been working without a contract since Dec. 31, 2011, although both sides have recognized the old contract.

St. Louis County employees are represented by 11 different union bargaining units, four of which have signed contracts through 2013 or 2014. Several of the units still are without a new contract.via County employees ratify new contract offer | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

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