Two labor contracts approved for LF city employees

Employees will receive raises but will pay more for health insurance

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor 

The Little Falls City Council voted to accept contract settlements with two of the four unions representing city employees.

Contracts approved were with the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 2564 (AFSCME).

MAPE represents the supervisory employees of the city and AFSCME represents the non-supervisory employees of the city not covered by the police or public works labor agreements.

A new wage schedule was put into place for each of the groups, taking the number of steps from 16 to five, with a wage increase of 2 percent for 2014, 2 percent for 2015 and 2.5 percent for 2016.

The new step plan offers 10 pay grades with the five steps rated from start to four years.

City Finance Officer Lori Kasella said the change was made in the step plan to become compliant with the mandated Minnesota Local Government Pay Equity Act. Individuals were placed at the step closest to their existing pay.

“The city is required to report to the state every three years and the city was found to be out of compliance this year,” she said. “The change in the step structure will bring us into compliance.”

Under this agreement, the employees who have paid $2.60 per month for their health insurance, will now pay 20 percent of their health insurance costs, about $290 per month.

“This expense is currently in the budget a city benefit cost and will be shifted to employee wages so there is no net additional cost to the city or employee (with the 2 percent raise),” said City Administrator Dan Vogt.

In 2014, the city’s contribution to the employees for family insurance will be $1,136.30 per month (80 percent of the rate), single employee is 100 percent paid by the city or $536.11 per month.

The Council vote was 5-1-1 for the AFSCME contract, since Council Member Frank Gosiak had to leave before the final vote was taken after the Dec. 2 meeting, following a closed session. Council Member at Large Brian-Paul Crowder voted no and Council Member Greg Zylka abstained.

On the MAPE contract, the vote was 6-1, with Gosiak absent and Crowder voting no.

Under the new MAPE contract, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2014, the parks, grounds and maintenance supervisor will start at pay grade (PG) 6 – $55,256; the golf course superintendent is ranked at PG6, four years – $62,791; the street superintendent, PG6, four years – $62,791; water/wastewater superintendent, PG7, four years – $71,671; police captain/investigator, PG7, four years – $71,673; fire chief, PG7, three years – $69,523; finance officer, PG8, one year – $74,516; public works director, PG8, four years – $81,886; and police, PG8, four years – $81,886.

The AFSCME contract, also to take effect Jan. 1, 2014, shows the assistant superintendent at the golf course at PG3, three years – $41,232; utility billing/office assistant, PG4, start – $42,546; accounting clerk, PG4, start – $42,546; administrative assistant, PG5, three years – $53,415; assistant engineer, PG5, four years – $55,067; assistant water superintendent, PG5, three years – $53,415; assistant wastewater superintendent, PG6, start – $55,256;

Under the contract, these salaried employees will no longer be eligible for compensatory time in exchange for a new vacation schedule.

Vogt negotiated the union contracts, saving the city approximately $27,500 in labor attorney fees.

Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem, who with Council President Don Klinker and Vogt made up the negotiating committee, said the negotiations went well.

“I’ve been on the union negotiations committee for all seven years I’ve been mayor and I feel that this year probably went the best it’s ever gone,” said VanRisseghem. “It was a lot faster than we’ve done it in the past and we dealt with the issues right away. I think that the city was able to work on the wage situation, which we had kept down for so many years, nobody got anything. I think we were able to meet them halfway.”

Part of that, she said, had to do with Vogt being in the city working with the different departments. “He knows the budget and he’s a little more confident when he goes in there and knows what we’re working toward to come up with a common good and common goal,” said VanRisseghem.

The city is still working with the unions covering police officers and street department employees.