City workers' union pickets Council meeting

Picketers greeted those coming to the Tuesday meeting of Canton (IL) City Council. AFSCME Council 31 which consists of city clerical workers, and employees of the public works, street, water, sewer, and garbage departments, held picket signs asking for relief from rising insurance costs.

According to Dave Smith, the state representative for the city's local, and Kayma Duncan, who serves as vice president of the local, about 40 city employees have been impacted by the increase in health insurance and are currently in negotiations with the city.

A recent pay raise has not covered the entire cost of the insurance increase for a portion of the workers. That has been the case since February, according to Smith who calls this a "devastating cut in pay." "These are dedicated city employees. This is their career, their livelihood," said Smith.

According to Smith, there will be more negotiations on this issue next week. "We can't accept a pay decrease," he stressed.

According to a statement, "We understand that employees need to pay more for insurance and we have increased the amount in the last contract by 100 percent. In April 2004, employees were paying 1.2 percent of their base pay. In September 2004, the employee premium increased to 1.5 percent and anytime the insurance fund balance dropped below $100,000, the employer premium was increased to 1.8 percent. Effective May 2005, employees paid 3 percent of their base pay. This is double what employees were paying in 2004."

The statement goes further to say, "The city is proposing a change to have employees pay 20 percent of the premium. This means that the lower paid employees would pay over 300 percent more in premiums. The take-home pay for employees would drop for some employees close to 12 percent. The pay increase offered by the city is only 9 percent over three years which means a loss of pay for some employees. The union understands that health care costs are rising and has proposed an increase of 33 percent."

In conclusion, the statement reads: "The city's proposal is not acceptable to any of the public works employees. We would ask you to support the union members proposal for a fair increase in premiums."

Mayor Rod Heinze stated, "We're negotiating with the union in private. We cannot make this a public negotiation."


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