Lawmakers split over state employees’ contracts, set to take effect next month

Project1_Layout 1Contracts covering about 27,500 state employees, including members of AFSCME Council 5 and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, will go into effect next month after a legislative subcommittee failed to reject or approve the agreements.

Members of the Subcommittee on Employee Relations split along party lines in a 5-5 vote yesterday. Under state law, the tie results in contracts taking effect 30 days after the vote.

The full Legislature must give the contracts final approval during the 2016 session, scheduled to begin March 8; otherwise state employees revert back to the terms of their 2013-15 contracts and resume negotiations with the state.

DFLers on the subcommittee, which included senators and members of the House, voted to approve the contracts; Republicans voted to reject them.

“It’s unfortunate that Republicans don’t recognize the value of hardworking state employees and the value of collective bargaining as an extension of democracy into the workplace,” AFSCME Council 5 Director Eliot Seide said. “Minnesota’s state workforce is one of the leanest and most productive in the nation. Our contracts were negotiated in good faith with the administration. It’s a good deal for state employees and taxpayers.”

The agreements call for annual raises of 2.5 percent, but will require workers to cover a larger portion of their health care costs – an increase more than offset by the wage and step increases, according to the unions.

By overwhelming margins, AFSCME and MAPE members voted to ratify the two-year contracts in August.

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