12/21/07

Don't be rude to AFSCME in labor-state

Greg Hoffman was upset with Robert Hoekstra. He let Hoekstra know that with a rising voice and firm gestures. Hoekstra, the Chippewa Falls (WI) City Council president, convinced the council on Tuesday to delay ratifying a three-year contract with city employees belonging to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1241.

Hoffman is chairman of the city’s Personnel Committee, which worked out the contract with the union. Hoekstra said he needed more information before he could vote on the contract. “They’re expecting this contract Jan. 1,” Hoffman said of AFSCME.

“I think it could have been handled in a much different manner,” Hoffman told Hoekstra. “I think you should have been attending the meetings. You could have been coming to the contract meetings.”

Hoekstra responded that he was not a member of the negotiating committee, but Hoffman said he could have attended as a council member.

Hoekstra objected to a provision to allow one employee in the city’s street department and another in the water or wastewater sections to keep their jobs for up to one year if they were to lose their commercial driver’s license.

And he didn’t care for a restructuring that calls for a working foreman position in the Parks and Recreation Department. “We’re creating something in the contract process that should be created outside the contract process,” Hoekstra said.

Hoffman disagreed, saying the position would come out of a restructuring of the department, and it would not be a new position.

But Hoekstra won over the council, which delayed the contract ratification on a 4-2 vote, with Hoffman and council member Dennis Doughty voting no. Hoekstra, Ralph Anderl, Chuck Hull and Jack Covill voted yes. Council member Greg Dachel was absent.

Interim City Administrator William Forest said the city will have to notify the union of the failure to ratify the contract by Jan. 1. “We’ll go back to the union and let them know where it stands,” Forest said. Meantime, city workers will continue working. If the council’s current schedule holds, it will not act on the contract anytime soon. It has cancelled its scheduled Jan. 1, 2008 meeting, so its next scheduled session is Tuesday, Jan. 15.

The agreement that’s on hold calls for a 2-percent wage hike Jan. 1 and another 1 percent on July 1, a 3 percent raise January 2009, a 2 percent in January 2010 and a 1 percent raise in July 2010.

In a 6-0 vote, the council approved a pay hike for its non-union and management employees. They will receive a 2-percent increase on Jan. 1 and another 1-percent hike on July 1.

(mercurynews.com)

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