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Cities rush to settle contracts before Legislature approves bill

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Gazette Staff
February 16, 2011

Some area municipalities are hurrying to settle union contracts before a vote is taken on Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to curtail collective bargaining rights.


In Janesville, the city Tuesday reached tentative agreements with three of its unions and will meet with representatives of a fourth today or Thursday. The contracts for Janesville's four unions expired in December.


In Evansville, city officials contacted the union representing the majority of city staff other than police and library and offered to strike a deal before the state forced its hand.


In Milton, City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said the city's been working on labor contracts with its police and public works employees as part of "business as normal" and planned to consider final approval of both contracts this week.


If the agreements are ratified before the legislation is passed, the municipalities would not be able to take advantage of any cost savings the legislation is expected to yield.


'Good faith'

Janesville Firefighters Local No. 580, Teamsters Local No. 695 and AFSCME Local No. 523 soon will take tentative agreements to their members for votes. Janesville Professional Police Association Local No. 32 is scheduled to meet with city officials today or Thursday.


The firefighter and police unions are not subject to Walker's proposal. More than 60 percent of Janesville's payroll funded by property taxes goes to police officers and firefighters.


Janesville City Manager Eric Levitt said the majority of city employees are not covered by Walker's proposal and that settling the contracts is worthwhile because it creates certainty on both sides.


"There's a lot of uncertainty heading into the future," he said.


Janesville already was close to agreements on three of the four contracts, and the unions should have the opportunity to accept what the city last had on the table, Levitt said.


"We were at a certain place when this occurred, and I feel that in good faith—there's probably a better term—if they agreed to where the city was at on our last offer, I'm good with that. I think we should honor that and finalize the documents."


Levitt said the city has a good working relationship with the city's unions, noting that members in 2010 delayed a 3 percent raise for a year.


"They decided that they would come back to the table in order to help the city at the time, even though they didn't have to," Levitt said.


In its initial offer, the city suggested two-year contracts, although the term of the tentative agreement is unknown. A zero percent pay increase in 2011 and a small increase in 2012 were also included. The details will be released when the contracts are ratified, Levitt said.


Employee contributions to the retirement system were not included in the city's initial proposal. Increases in health insurance premiums were, Levitt said.


Levitt estimated that employees now pay almost 9 percent of their premium costs.


For non-protective services employees, the city pays 11.6 percent of their salaries to the state retirement system. Walker's legislation would require those employees to pick up half of that.


The city pays 23.6 percent of firefighters' salaries and 21.3 of police officers' salaries into the retirement system. Those employees would continue to contribute nothing to their retirement under Walker's proposal.


Matt Simpson, president of the Janesville firefighters union, said Walker's announcement did not have much influence on negotiations because the two sides already were close to a settlement anyway.


"The ease in settling was that nobody on the union floor had a notion that we were going to get a raise," he said. "It was pretty simple."


The union has always had a good working relationship with the city and has understood that members would have to pay more in health care premiums, Simpson said.


'Strike a bargain'

In Evansville, the city on Tuesday called Teamsters Local No. 695, which represents the majority of city clerical staff, public works and water and light employees, and "offered that if we can strike a bargain locally rather than have our hands forced, we're open to it," City Administrator Dan Wietecha said.


"(That) means someone needs to nail down a lot of stuff in the next day (or two)," he said.


A special city council meeting is scheduled for 7:30 tonight to approve a collective bargaining agreement with the union, and "to amend city administrator employment agreement" and "extend department-head employment contracts one year through Dec. 31, 2013."


The city has been in negotiations since late summer on three contracts that expired in December, but Wietecha said the offer to negotiate this week is for one contract that covers the majority of city staff. The other two contracts cover law enforcement, which would be exempt from changes in Walker's proposal.


The city wrote this year's budget expecting no increases in salaries and no increases or savings in retirement and health insurance, Wietecha said.


"We don't need to suddenly change just because there's a new variable," he said.


Wietecha said two factors led to the city's offer Tuesday to get a deal done.


When negotiations started last year, a point was made that things might get heated between city management and employees, but it was not meant to be personal, Wietecha said.


"Some of this stuff in the last few days has become personal in both directions," he said. "One, we're wanting to extend that olive branch.


"The other part is really a belief that these decisions are better handled locally rather than having our hand forced saying this is where the city will make up its money," he said.


A rough calculation shows the city would save a little more than $100,000 on retirement contributions under Walker's proposal, but that number includes law enforcement, which would be exempt from the changes, he said.


City employees already pay 10 percent of health insurance premiums, so increasing to the proposed 12 percent would only bring the city a savings of a few thousand dollars, he said.


He said the city has a "very workable" budget for 2011 that is fair to all involved.


"It was balanced and still maintained services throughout the city and (we) balanced that with not increasing taxes," he said.


'Business as normal'

Schuetz said Tuesday afternoon the city of Milton was negotiating under existing laws of collective bargaining. The city planned this week to consider final approval of contracts with its police and public works employees.


"We've kind of gone about our business as normal," he said.


Like other communities statewide, Schuetz said, the city's still waiting to learn how the state's biennial budget will impact municipalities.


Schuetz said it's possible the city could end up using savings from limited labor bargaining to patch budget holes left in the wake of state cuts.


Schuetz said the biggest uncertainty lies in the ranks of city employees, where city workers brace for change.


CONTRACT STATUS

Public-sector union contracts will protect workers from the effects of Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget-repair bill, but only until those contracts run out. Unions that are still negotiating their contracts, however, will immediately find themselves in radically new territory once the bill becomes law. Police and firefighters are exempted from the bill's provisions. Here is the status of union contracts from a sample of area communities:


City of Delavan

-- 17 police officers and reserve officers are represented by the Delavan Policemen's Protective Association. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- Five full-time and reserve emergency dispatchers are represented by the Delavan Professional Police Dispatchers Association. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- 15 public works and utility workers are represented by AFSCME. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


City of Edgerton

-- 15 public works and utilities workers as well as administrative assistants are represented by the Communication Workers Association Local No. 4671. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- Eight police officers and one administrative assistant are represented by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. Their contract expired Dec. 31, 2009.


Edgerton School District

-- 132 teachers, library employees and speech and language pathologists are represented by the Edgerton Education Association. Their contract will expire June 30, 2011.


-- 39 school support staff are represented by the Edgerton Education Support Staff. Their contract expires June 30, 2012.


City of Elkhorn

-- 15 police officers and dispatchers are represented by Labor Association of Wisconsin. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2012.


-- 15 City Hall office staff and city electrical and water utility workers are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2012.


-- 12 public works and library workers are represented by the American Federation of State and Municipal Employees. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2012.


Evansville School District


-- About 158 teachers are represented by the Evansville Education Association. Their contract expires June 30, 2011.


-- 41 clerks and educational assistants are represented by the Evansville Education Association Auxiliary. Their contract expired June 30, 2010.


-- 14 custodians and 15 food service employees are represented by the Teamsters Union Local No. 695. Their contracts expire June 30, 2011.


City of Evansville

-- The majority of city clerical staff, public works and water and light employees are represented by Teamsters Union Local No. 695. Their contract expired Dec. 31, 2010.


-- Police officers and supervisors are represented under two contracts with the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. Their contract expired Dec. 31, 2010.


-- Librarians are represented by Teamsters Union Local No. 695. Their contract expired Dec. 31, 2010.


Membership numbers were unavailable Tuesday.


City of Janesville

-- 74 laborers, equipment operators, mechanics, parks employees, water operators and sanitary equipment operators are represented by AFSCME Local No. 523. Their contract expired Dec. 31, 2010.


-- 86 fire captains, lieutenants, paramedics, drivers, firefighters and inspectors are represented by Firefighters Local No. 580. Their contract expired Dec. 31, 2010.


-- 86 police detectives, officers and members of the Streets Crimes Unit are represented by the Janesville Professional Police Association Local No. 32. Their contract expired Dec. 31, 2010.


-- 28 bus drivers, mechanics and service people are represented by Teamsters Local No. 695. Their contract expired Dec. 31, 2010.


Janesville School District

-- 822 teachers are represented by the Janesville Education Association. Their contract expires June 30, 2013.


-- 351 secretaries, clerks and aides are represented by AFSCME Local 938. Their contract expired June 30, 2010.


-- 178 custodians, maintenance workers and food service workers are represented by AFSCME Local 938. Their contract expired June 30, 2009. A tentative agreement has been reached. Members are scheduled to vote on it Friday and Saturday. The school board, which would have to approve the contract, meets Tuesday.


Membership in all three unions includes both full-time and part-time workers.


Milton School District

-- 237 teachers, psychologists, guidance counselors, speech pathologists and library media specialists are represented by the Milton Education Association. Their contract expires June 30, 2011.


City of Milton

-- Eight police officers are represented by the Milton Professional Police Association. Their contract expired Dec. 31, 2010, and was up for renewal this week.


-- 10 streets and utilities workers are represented by Teamsters Local No. 695. Their contract expired Dec. 31, 2010, and was up for renewal this week.


Rock County

-- 30 human services and Rock Haven workers are represented by Rock Haven: Professional RNs and Social Workers. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- 154 staff, social workers, therapists and registered nurses in the department of human services are represented by Rock Haven: Professional RNs and Social Workers. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- 78 public works and courthouse maintenance workers are represented by AFSCME Local 1077. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- 218 nursing assistants, food service workers and environmental service workers at Rock Haven are represented by AFSCME Local 1258. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- 352 dispatchers, correctional officers, clerical positions in most departments, economic support staff, and court system staff are represented by AFSCME Local 2489. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- 63 sheriff's deputies and detectives are represented by the Deputy Sheriff Association. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- 22 sheriff's sergeants and lieutenants are represented by the Deputy Sheriff Supervisors Association. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- 16 public health nurses are represented by SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- 30 youth specialists and 13 relief workers at the juvenile detention center and in the Human Services Juvenile Justice Diversion Program are represented by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. Their contract expired Dec. 31, 2009.


-- Five attorneys in the corporation counsel's office are represent by the Rock County Attorney's Association. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


Walworth County

-- 416 workers with the health care center, health and human services, courthouse, jail, communication center and public works department are represented by the American Federation of State and Municipal Workers. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- 61 workers with Lakeland School for special education are represented by the Lakeland Educational Association. The contract expired Dec. 31, 2010.


-- 72 sheriff's deputies are represented by the Deputy Sheriff's Association. Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.


-- 65 social workers, public health nurse and environmental health specialist are represented by the Association of Human Service Professionals Their contract expires Dec. 31, 2011.



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