Will County makes ‘final offer’ to union workers
BY CINDY CAIN email@example.com October 22, 2013 8:48PM
Signs sprouted in Joliet recently after union members voted to give their negotiating committee the right to call a strike. | Cindy Cain~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 24, 2013 6:36AM
Will County negotiators gave their “last and final offer” to the county’s biggest employee union on Tuesday, according to Nick Palmer, chief of staff for County Executive Larry Walsh.
Tuesday’s contract talks, which lasted from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., were the first held since the union — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1028 — voted overwhelmingly last week to give its negotiating team permission to call a strike.
The two sides have been negotiating since summer 2012, and a federal mediator began working on the case this summer. The union came in Tuesday unwilling to consider its members paying a percentage of their health insurance premiums, Palmer said.
Employees pay 1 percent of their salary for individual coverage and 2 percent for family coverage. The county wants them to pay a percentage of premium costs, with higher-paid workers paying more than those who earn less.
“We’re going in opposite directions,” Palmer said of the union’s sudden unwillingness to consider paying a percentage of premiums.
The county wants to settle the contract, but it has to balance the budget and watch out for taxpayers’ interests, too, he said.
“We really were hopeful we’d get an agreement, that we’d find a path,” Palmer said.
He said it wasn’t clear what the union would do next. Local 1028 president Dave Delrose could not be reached for comment Tuesday night. Palmer did not know if the union planned to issue a strike notice or not.
“That’s their call to make, not ours,” he said.
In the past, Delrose has said pay raises and health insurance costs are the biggest issues preventing a settlement. The union’s 1,260 members haven’t had a cost-of-living raise since 2009 and now are being asked to pay more for medical insurance, he said.
County officials contend the 2.5 percent “step” salary increases employees get for additional years of service should be considered raises. The county also is offering cost-of-living increases, but Palmer would not say how much until he talks to members of the county board’s insurance and personnel committee on Wednesday.
There is some uncertainty over how much notice Local 1028 must give the county before a strike. State law says five days, but the contract that expired Dec. 1 called for 10 days’ notice.