St. Louis County to Accept AFSCME Offer on Sick Leave for Union Members

By KBJR News 1

August 26, 2013 Updated Aug 27, 2013 at 10:04 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- St. Louis County negotiators have notified AFSCME representatives and the state mediator that they will accept the union’s offer regarding maximum sick leave accumulation and payout upon retirement.

Employees in the County’s two largest bargaining units, the Civil Service and Merit System Basic Units, filed an intent-to-strike notice last week and could walk off the job as early as this Friday.

The County had originally proposed that future employees be allowed to accumulate 1,150 hours of sick leave while current employees would be allowed to keep their existing benefit – being able to accumulate up to 1,900 hours, which can be transferred into a health care savings plan upon retirement.

County officials say they proposed this plan to address a liability the sick leave benefit creates for taxpayers, which is currently estimated at $28 million.

AFSCME countered with the a proposal to cap all current and future employees at 1,500 hours, with the exception that any current employees with more than 1,500 hours accumulated would be able to keep what they’ve earned.

“Reducing the sick leave benefit to 1,500 hours is a temporary solution to a long-term situation,” says County Administrator Kevin Gray. “We will accept it for now if, in fact, this is what our employees want. But it’s something we will need to revisit in future negotiations."

“Our team will take the settlement offer to our membership for a vote,” said Steve Kneifel, who leads AFSCME’s negotiating team. “The employer understands that AFSCME won’t accept a divisive two-tier contract that pits new hires against current employees. We believe that fairness and solidarity create a healthy workplace.”

AFSCME members will vote on the settlement offer by secret ballot at worksites on Thursday, Sept. 12.

About 1,000 St. Louis County employees belong to these two units.

Posted to the web by Krista Burns