Collective bargaining law will affect Janesville, other communities

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Gazette staff
Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nonunion government workers can expect to start seeing smaller paychecks after June 29, when a law stripping most of their collective bargaining rights is expected to go into effect.

Government workers protected by union contracts will see the changes when their contracts expire.

Here is how the ruling will affect a sampling of local governments:

Janesville School District

The Janesville School District has three union contracts in place, all of which will expire June 30, 2013.

Union members won’t be subject to the provisions of the state’s budget repair bill until their contracts expire in two years.

But Rep. Joe Knilans has authored an amendment to the 2011-13 state budget bill that would allow districts and unions to reopen contracts to modify compensation and fringe benefit requirements only.

The local school district would save an estimated $3.1 million if its largest union—the Janesville Education Association—agreed to modify its contract so employees would pay 5.8 percent of their salaries to their pension fund.

The teachers union represents about 820 employees. Its four-year contract with the district was ratified last fall and requires no payments toward retirement benefits and either 3 percent or 8 percent of their health care benefits, depending on whether they participate in the district’s wellness program.

AFSCME Local 938 represents about 175 custodial and food service workers in the district. Its four-year contract also expires in 2013, and its employees contribute nothing toward their retirement and 3 percent or 8 percent of their health insurance premiums.

AFSCME Local 938 also represents the district’s third bargaining unit, comprising about 350 secretaries, clerks and aides in the district. Only about 50 of the represented employees are full-time with health care benefits, which are paid at the same level as the other bargaining units.

About 120 school district employees are not represented by any union. They, too, pay either 3 percent or 8 percent of their health premiums. Like the other groups, its members contribute nothing toward their retirement.

That, however, will likely change in July.

If the state’s budget repair bill becomes law as expected June 29, the district’s nonunion employees will see a deduction of 5.8 percent of their pay for their retirement starting with the district’s July 10 payroll, said Angel Tullar, the district’s manager of employee relations.

Because the local school district is not part of the state health insurance program, its nonunion members likely will continue paying either 3 percent or 8 percent toward their health care premiums, Tullar said.

City of Janesville

The city’s four unions hurried to settle two-year contracts within days of the proposal to change collective bargaining.

Those unions represent firefighters, police officers, transit workers and department of public work employees.

Police supervisors unionized after the proposed bill because they could be paid less than the people they supervised if they were made to pay half their pension contributions. The contract with that police supervisors union, however, has not been settled.

The contracts for the four other unions expire in December 2012.

That means none of those employees will be required to pay half of their pension contributions until their contracts end.

The city has 462 employees. Excluding seasonal, temporary and library employees. Of the total, 275—or 60 percent—are union, and 187—or 40 percent—are nonunion.

The majority of the unionized workers—172—are firefighters or police officers exempted from contributing. Twenty-eight are bus drivers and mechanics represented by the Teamsters Local No. 695. They, too, might be exempted because federal law requires that collective bargaining be in place to receive federal transit aid.

Another 72 are employees in the department of public works.

One proposed budget amendment would require that new police officers and firefighters pay half their pension contributions. Another amendment would exempt fire and police supervisors.

Eric Levitt, Janesville city manager, said nonunion employees likely would begin to make pension contributions sometime in August.

The amount each employee would pay is unknown. A decision must be made on whether the contributions are pre-tax or after tax.

Levitt estimated the city would pay about $385,000 less next year in pension contributions.

City employees next year will pay between 9 and 10 percent of their health insurance premiums. That figure was also negotiated in the union contracts.

City of Milton

The city has two nonunion employees in the public utilities department and five nonunion employees at the police department.

The city has seven police officers represented through the Wisconsin Professional Police Association and 10 public utility employees are represented through Teamsters Local No. 695.

Their contracts were settled Jan. 1 and ratified in February shortly after municipalities statewide learned of Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining proposal.

The union members will be shielded from the full impact of changes to collective bargaining through Dec. 31, 2013, when their contract expires.

Under terms of the contract, members of both unions must contribute 5 percent of their health insurance premiums, which will be stepped up to 7 percent next year and 10 percent in 2013. Under the contract, neither group pays a pension contribution.

The city has been in talks with both unions this spring over a request that the unions reopen their contracts and increase insurance and pension contributions to bring them more in line with concessions outlined in the pending collective bargaining law.

Neither union has agreed to reopen.

Nonunion employees will face insurance and pension concessions required by the pending collective bargaining law, city officials said.

Edgerton School District

The Edgerton School District reached terms on a two-year contract extension with its unions in March, when the state’s proposed collective bargaining changes still were locked in a legislative battle.

Superintendent Dennis Pauli said proposals for the state budget and changes to collective bargaining at the time weighed largely into concessions written into contract agreements with the unions. He said the pending collective bargaining law won’t have further impact on the district for the next two years.

Pauli said the district is now focused on immediate budget issues.

“At this point, we’ll focus on the academic needs of our students for next year, and being good stewards of our taxpayer’s dollars,” Pauli said.

The district has two unions: the Edgerton Education Association, which represents 132 teachers, and the Edgerton Education Support Staff, which represents 39 school support staff. It has about 60 nonunion employees, according to the district’s business office.

Through contractual terms, all employees of the district, both union and nonunion, will contribute 5.8 percent to pension, and some will pay about 6 percent toward healthcare coverage.

The district will continue to pick up the tab for employees with single coverage, said Business Manager Mark Worthing. That’s less of a concession than the state mandates in the pending collective bargaining law, but it’s allowed because the district on July 1 is switching from a state healthcare plan through the Wisconsin Education Association Trust to a less expensive Dean plan, Worthing said.

Evansville School District

All four bargaining units that represent about 231 employees in the Evansville School District agreed to new contracts this year that run through at least June 2012.

The Evansville Education Association, which represents about 158 teachers, and the district in late February reached agreement in record time—the whole negotiation process took about 30 hours. The contract expires June 30, 2013.

Under the contract, employees are paying 5 percent of their health insurance premium and 5.8 percent of their retirement. The same terms apply to the district’s three other bargaining units.

The unions representing custodians and food service employees have a contract through June 2013 while the union that represents about 41 clerks and educational assistants has a contract through June 2012.

The district has about 30 nonunion employees, which will be impacted when the law goes into effect.

“It really is a significant salary cut for people,” Superintendent Heidi Carvin said. “The majority of our employees are women, and many of them have been the provider of health insurance for their families, and in many cases their spouses either lost jobs or had salaries reduced, so this is another whammy onto them.

“It will certainly have an impact on them for their ability to contribute to the local economy,” she said. “It’s a hardship for them in terms of sending their own kids to college—the same things many people are struggling with during this economy. It will certainly have an impact.”

Walworth County

Walworth County Administrator David Bretl said he was unsure on how the court ruling ultimately would impact the county’s seven labor unions.

Six of the seven unions have contracts that expire at the end of the year.

The contract for teachers at the county’s Lakeland School expires at the end of this month. Lakeland operates programs for special education students.

The number of Walworth County employees covered by collective bargaining agreements is 611 or 73.5 percent. County employees that are nonunion total 220 or 26.5 percent.

The court ruling will not affect employees’ contributions to health care because the county is self-insured, although bargaining rights for the next contract are diminished, Bretl said.

The county is part of the state pension system.

“It will be happening sooner for teachers and non-reps,” Bretl said of the effect of the court’s decision on county employees. “The rest of the unions will chug along under their current contracts until the end of the year.

“I would say with caution not to draw too many conclusions at this point. It’s just been a roller coaster. I don’t know what the status of the law will be until the dust really settles, and there are other lawsuits pending.”

Last updated: 5:38 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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