Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Union workers with St. Louis County have filed an intent to strike notice allowing them to walk out on August 29th, unless an agreement can be reached regarding a new contract.
The union is asking that all current and future members be given the same sick-pay contract, while the county is looking at ways to reduce what they say has become a $28 million liability to county tax payers.
Negotiations between the union and the county broke off on Friday.
On Monday, AFSCME Local 66 union members stood in solidarity to pitch their final proposal against the county's proposed reduction of county employee sick-leave.
Union workers are allowed to carry over their unused sick time.
The county wants to cap that sick leave for future employees at 1,150 hours or roughly seven month's salary.
This is compared to the current employee plan which caps at 1,900 hours, equivalent to almost a full year's pay - which is paid into a health care savings plan upon retirement.
County officials say their proposal will help reduce county tax payer's exposure to a $28 million liability.
Union members say they are willing to meet the county in the middle, but as of now both sides remain firm on their end of the negotiations.
"We're trying to face this off right now, head it off before it gets to the point where we can't handle it, and what we're saying is, the proposal we're putting forward is, that this will be a gradual reduction in this liability, but it's a long term solution and what the union is proposing simply does not save enough," said Dana Kazel, Communications Manager, St. Louis County.
"What we proposed was 1500 hours across the board, with the only difference being, if an older worker had more than 1500, and let's say they are at 1700 now, that's where their cap will be until they retire, because we have a lot of people close to retirement," said Dennis Frazier, President of AFSCME Local 66.
Currently, those 1900 hours of unused sick-time are paid into a health care savings plan upon retirement.
Union members filed an intent to strike notice on Monday morning.
If an agreement is not reached by both parties by August 29th, more than 1,000 employees could hit the picket line throughout St. Louis County.
Jail and 9-1-1 services will not be affected because those units, also in the AFSCME union, already agreed to the new contract.
Should there be a strike, county officials have put together a contingency plan that would allow the county to remain open, putting a focus on providing critical services. Some county offices and departments will operate with reduced hours should a strike occur.