By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The union representing city public works employees concluded contract negotiations Tuesday night by agreeing to a 3.25 percent pay raise. Also, the city will pay half of this year's 45 percent health insurance premium increase.
The one-year contract, if it is approved by the City Council and union members approve it, will affect 27 public works employees.
In the latest of a series of negotiation sessions that began in April, representatives of Local 336 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees met with the Havre City Council's Labor Relations Committee. Agreement was reached on the remaining two of the union's original 12 proposals in two hours.
The union had originally proposed a 6 percent raise for each of three years, and the city had proposed a 2 percent raise for one year.
"We appreciate the cooperation we got from you," Labor Relations Committee chair Jack Brandon told the union representatives after the agreements had been reached.
"You guys are the best I've ever worked with," responded Joe Chamberlain, vice president of Local 336.
"Yeah, me too," said Kelly Schafer, secretary-treasurer of Local 336.
Darren Johnson, president of Local 336, said he talked to every union member he could find this week to see how they felt about the union settling, and that all but one was in agreement.
"I'm 100 percent satisfied, and I hope the other two unions - police and fire - follow along ... because our insurance is in trouble, and we all need to pay that to save it," Johnson said.
The police and firefighters unions are still negotiating. A negotiating session is scheduled with the firefighters union tonight.
At an earlier meeting, the public works employees union had said it wanted a guarantee that if the other unions got a higher health insurance contribution from the city, the public works employees would get the same.
The city attorney determined that would be an unfair labor practice, Brandon said.
Absent a guarantee, the public works employees, by settling first, could end up paying more than members of other bargaining units. That has happened regularly in years past, said Pam Magnuson, field representative from AFSCME.