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PR seals deals with two labor unions

The city council approves labor agreements with patrol officers and liquor store employees, as well as wage and insurance adjustments for non-union workers.

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Ryan Mathisrud (Enterprise file photo)

The Park Rapids City Council approved a pair of three-year labor agreements on Jan. 14.

The council had already approved a three-year contract with the Minnesota Teamsters Union Local 320, representing the city’s public works employees, in October 2019.

Police union

First on the agenda was an agreement that the city’s personnel committee reached on Dec. 20, 2019 with the Law Enforcement Labor Services Inc., representing Park Rapids Patrol Officers Local 403.

City Administrator Ryan Mathisrud explained that the proposed contract includes:

  • A 2.5 percent pay raise in 2020, plus increases in the city’s contribution toward health insurance of $25 for single and $50 for family coverage.

  • A 2.5 percent pay increase in 2021, plus 22 cents added to the base wage in lieu of an insurance contribution increase.

  • A 3 percent pay increase in 2022, plus the same 22 cents added to the base wage.

  • Eliminating the entry step and the 18-month step, making the six-month step the entry-level starting wage. “It makes our starting wage a little bit higher,” said Mathisrud, “making us more competitive with other cities.”

He said these increases are consistent with other labor negotiations, “so we’re trying to keep the compensation package consistent across the board.”
Other changes in the contract, Mathisrud said, include eliminating an article relating to seniority, adjusting the language about sick leave and establishing a post-employment health care savings plan (HCSP) through the Minnesota State Retirement System, with employees contributing 2.5 percent of their gross wages into their HCSP account starting Jan. 1, 2021.

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Also, any severance pay or cash payout due to an employee separating from city service will be deposited into their HCSP account or, if the employee has died, paid to their estate.

Council member Tom Conway, a member of the personnel committee, said the city attorney advised putting the HCSP clause in a separate memorandum of understanding (MOU). Conway said MOUs tend to be reviewed each time a contract is renegotiated, while clauses within the contract are only reviewed if a problem arises.

“It’s harder to get it out of the agreement later than to just put it in an MOU up front,” Mathisrud added.

The council discussed making their approval contingent on the union accepting an MOU for the health care savings plan, at a risk of having to renegotiate if the union says no.

City Treasurer Angela Brumbaugh noted that the HCSP clause is already in the Teamsters contract.

Conway moved to approve the labor agreement as presented.

During discussion of the motion, council member Liz Stone voiced concern that the sick leave clause does not include a “life partner or significant other” in addition to a spouse.

Conway said he thinks state law covers that issue. “I’m sure the union wouldn’t argue if the city wanted to administer the contract that way,” he added.

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“We could make a note of that and discuss it at the next round of negotiations,” said Mathisrud.

Conway suggested asking the union representative about adding that language. “I don’t know that it’s worth turning down the contract for,” he said.

The motion passed without dissent.

UFCW agreement

The council also approved labor agreement that the personnel committee reached on Dec. 16, 2019 with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1189, representing municipal liquor store employees.

In his summary of the agreement, Mathisrud quoted the same wage and insurance increases as in the police union contract. He said this will help management hire part-time employees in a competitive job market.

Additional changes in the contract include the following:

  • Designating two employees as shop steward instead of one.

  • Paying employees for up to four hours’ work if they are sent home early due to management closing the store for inclement weather. “Employees can continue to choose to go home early on those days, with management approval,” Mathisrud said. “They would able to use their (paid time off) for that.”

  • Agreeing to pay time-and-a-half for hours worked on Sunday, though the liquor store currently does not open on Sundays.

  • Reduces the extension period on probation from 60 days to 30.

  • Reduces probation from 60 days to 30 for an employee moving from part-time to full-time.

  • Adding a 60-day trial period when a clerk is promoted to lead clerk, during which either the employee or the employer can move them back to the clerk position.

  • Changing the title of Columbus’ Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

  • Adding an unpaid 20-minute new employee orientation to become familiar with the union.

Conway moved to approve the UFCW agreement. The motion carried unopposed.

Non-union workers

In a late addition to the agenda, the council also approved a wage and insurance benefit adjustment for non-union employees, with the same increases as in the union agreements through 2022.

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According to the resolution, eligible positions include city administrator, police chief, facilities maintenance/IT superintendent, public works superintendent, planner, liquor store manager, sergeants, treasurer, city clerk, police administrative assistant, planning administrative assistant, accounting administrative assistant, part-time accounts payable clerk, public works weekend rounds employee and part-time police officers.

Mathisrud noted that these increases have been budgeted.

Council member Bob Wills moved to approve the adjustment. The motion carried unopposed.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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