2013-03-14 / Front Page

Contract signed with highway dept. union

By Rin Porter
Wadena County reporter

At the March 5 meeting, Wadena County Commissioners announced a three-year labor contract settlement with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 49, AFL-CIO, that represents the workers at the county Highway Department.

The contract will be in effect from January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2015.

Like the contracts of other bargaining units that have already settled, this contract includes a two percent wage increase in 2013 over 2012 levels, and two percent wage increases for the second and third years of the contract (2014 and 2015).

The contract does not contain the “me too” clause that caused substantial turmoil between county management and county employees during the previous three-year contract.

The contract was signed by Board Chair Dave Hillukka, Deputy Auditor/ Treasurer Tammy Lupkes, and union official Perry Schmitt during the board meeting. The union’s business manager, Paul Ptacek, was unable to attend the signing due to the major snowstorm that affected Minnesota on March 4 and 5. None of the signers made any statement at the time of the signing.

Teamsters Local 320’s two units, referred to as the general and essential units, are the only remaining groups of county employees who have not approved a labor agreement for the 2013-2015 period.

Also during the board meeting, commissioners and County Attorney Kyra Ladd discussed the drafting of a written employment offer for newly-hired Interim Auditor/Treasurer Judy Taves, whose employment begins March 11.

Taves had an oral agreement with Hillukka, who offered her the position following the conclusion of the job candidate interviews last month. Ladd told the board that Taves should be given a written statement of the terms of her hiring.

Ladd told the board that Taves’ situation is unique among county employees at this time, because although Taves will be filling the position of Auditor/ Treasurer, Taves has not been elected to the position, nor has she been appointed. Instead, she has been hired for a specific period: March 11, 2013, to December 31, 2014, but she is not an independent contractor either.

Human Resources Consultant Cheryl Goettig was present at the meeting and participated in the discussion among the board and Ladd.

After considerable discussion, the board approved a motion outlining the terms of Taves’ employment: (1) she will receive a salary of $62,000 per year, prorated in 2013 because she will not be an employee for a full calendar year; (2) she will not accrue sick time or vacation time, because elected officials in Wadena County do not accrue sick time or vacation time; she will take time off for illness or vacation as she sees fit; (3) she will be required to participate in Wadena County’s health insurance plan; (4) she will report to the board of commissioners during the period of her employment, and will not have a “supervisor” per se.

Also during the board meeting, commissioners learned from County

Engineer Ryan Odden that a new formula for distributing gas tax revenue to townships needed to be approved, effective with the 2014 distribution. Odden explained his recommendation for the formula, and the board approved it. Each township will receive a letter from Odden explaining the changes to the existing formula, and how the changes will affect the revenue that the township will receive. The changes had to be made because in 2012 the Minnesota Legislature altered the statute that affects the distribution of gas tax revenue by counties to townships.

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