In contract talks, state workers beat back health care concessions, win raises

Project1_Layout 1After reaching a tentative agreement with the state July 1, members of two public-employee unions are set to vote this month on a two-year contract that includes annual raises of 2.5 percent.

Bargaining teams from both Council 5 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees recommended members vote “yes” to ratify the 2015-17 contract, according to articles published on the unions’ websites.

Wage increases included in the tentative agreement would offset an increase in employees’ share of health care costs – though not nearly as steep as the increase sought by state negotiators.

AFSCME and MAPE said their bargaining teams beat back $74 million in proposed takebacks, including a proposal to increase employees’ health insurance premiums. Instead, state workers would see a modest increase in out-of-pocket costs like co-pays and deductibles under the proposed contract.

“Even though the tentative agreement does increase health care costs in a few areas, the contract’s pay increases more than offset those costs,” AFSCME Council 5’s statement said. “Even members who pay the maximum out-of-pocket insurance costs will come out ahead by the end of the proposed contract.”

MAPE said state negotiators’ opening offer included raises of just 1 percent annually. “MAPE negotiators battled back, unwilling to accept any pay increase that would not more than offset the increases being proposed to the health care plan,” the union said.

“The governor’s team dropped their most onerous health care proposals after hearing from seven MAPE and AFSCME members who shared their personal stories with Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans… Each member spoke of how detrimental any serious increases to out-of-pockets or premiums would be for them and their families.”

The tentative agreement also includes a compromise regarding the unions’ proposal to expand paid family leave. If approved, the state would “establish a task force to assess opportunities for paid parental leave for all employees of the State of Minnesota,” according to MAPE.

In addition to wages and benefits, the tentative agreement includes several language changes suggested by union members, AFSCME said.

The contract covers nearly 17,500 AFSCME members and 13,000 MAPE members employed by the State of Minnesota.

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