Janesville, two unions reach deal

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Friday, February 18, 2011
— Two of Janesville's four unions have signed and ratified two-year contracts that call for a 2.3 percent increase in wages and benefits over two years.

The contracts cover 86 firefighters under Firefighters Local No. 580 and 74 public works employees covered by AFSCME. The public works contract would for two years insulate those employees from Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to require public employees other than police and fire to pay half of their pension contributions.

City Manager Eric Levitt said he didn't know Thursday how much it would have saved the city if the public works employees had been required to pay half their pension contributions.

The city's 2011 cost for pensions paid with property taxes will be $3.4 million, with about 78 percent of that going to firefighters and police, Levitt said.

All non-union employees—secretaries, building inspectors and administrators, for example—would pay their half of their pension contributions if Walker's legislation passes.

The two new contracts include:

-- Zero percent increases in salaries in 2011. Increases in 2012 hinge on the inflation rate but are capped at 1.5 percent for firefighters and 1.75 percent for public works employees.

-- Employees paying about 9 percent of their health insurance premiums in 2011 and 10 percent in 2012. Employees who participate in a wellness program in 2012 would get a 1 percent reduction. Monthly premiums would increase from $133 in 2010 to $147 this year and $162 in 2012.

-- A provision with AFSCME allowing the city to contract with outside workers to remove weeds and snow. This would help the city respond in a more timely matter if crews are busy, Levitt said.

The unions and the city were close to reaching an agreement before Walker's proposal to reduce collective bargaining rights, and Levitt said he believes it was only fair to continue bargaining in good faith.

"It's called working together in the long term for the city," Levitt said.

Union members in 2010 delayed a 3 percent increase in salary to keep property taxes down, saving the city more than $500,000, Levitt said.

The state's financial problems were not caused by local workers, Levitt said, and Janesville's budget issues were caused by a loss of revenue, such as state shared revenue and interest earnings.

State shared revenue payments to the city have dropped $1.29 million since 2003—$389,000 alone since 2008, he said.

The contracts will give workers time to adjust to the statewide changes, he said. It also provides certainty for the employees during uncertain times and certainty that the city can continue to provide services, Levitt said.

Settling with the Teamsters also assures that the city will continue receiving $900,000 in federal transit funds. Those funds are in question if Walker's proposal passes because U.S. law requires that collective bargaining right remain in place to get federal funds.

Last updated: 4:17 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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