County OKs first post-Act 10 contracts

Raises for law enforcement employees more than offset by concessions beyond state mandates
by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – The County Board Tuesday approved its first three post-Act 10 union contracts.

The pacts, with law enforcement, social workers and highway department employees, were all approved unanimously.

The social workers and highway department employees were granted 2 percent pay raises in the one-year agreements.

The contract with law enforcement workers – the only county employee union still eligible for mediation/arbitration of contract disputes–is for three years, with a 3percent pay raise in 2013, 2.5 percent in 2014 and 2 percent in 2015.

“Because of the recovering economic times we’re in, that seems to be a pretty good increase,” Supervisor Thomas Epping stated. “I’m wondering what the rationale was.”

Supervisor Devin LeMahieu, chair of the board’s Human Resources Committee, explained that the contract includes concessions from the union that offset the cost of the pay increases.

“When we went into these negotiations, it was a whole new atmosphere under Act 10 and we didn’t have a lot of comparables to work off of,” Le- Mahieu stated.

“A lot of other counties are going to arbitration,” with their law enforcement employee unions, he added. “We feel we’re sort of leading the way with the deal we have.”

Most importantly, LeMahieu told the board, the contract includes increased employee pension payments, a provision in Act 10 law enforcement unions were exempted from. It also requires employees to pay a larger share of health insurance premiums, something else law enforcement employees were exempted from in Act 10.

As a result, Le- Mahieu continued, the pay raises over the life of the contract will be be less than the increased premiums and pension payments employees will make.

He pointed out that a number of other counties that have gone to arbitration with law enforcement employees have been seeking no pay raise contracts without increased employee pension or insurance payments.

“I think the union actually stepped up on this,” LeMahieu said of the county law enforcement employees. “We haven’t seen any other union voluntarily taking a pay cut.”

The board voted to approve the one-year agreements with social workers and highway department employees immediately, without the usual reference to a second committee to come back for final approval in a month.

LeMahieu explained in an accompanying memo that the request to act immediately was, “to allow for the immediate increase to be implemented for billing purposes to other municipalities and clients (and to) allow for an increase in employee morale due to a more expedient back pay process.”

He also noted that the pay raises in both contracts had been included in the 2013 county budget.

The pay raises in both one-year agreements are retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year.

In his monthly report, County Administrator Adam Payne said that, beginning next month, he would be updating the board on the implications of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed biennial state budget on the county’s budget-writing process.

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