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St. Louis County union plow drivers approve new contract

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Eveleth, MN -- Teamsters Local 320 voted and approved a new contract offer Monday night after an hour and a half ratification meeting.

The new agreement comes six days after Teamsters first hit the picket line.

During that time, St. Louis County supervisors operated plow equipment during two different snow events.

According to a release from St. Louis County,  The 168 employees who are members of Teamster local 320 are expected to return to work Tuesday.

"We are thankful to have reached this agreement and to welcome our employees back to work," said Kevin Gray, St. Louis County administrator. "Both sides worked very hard to get to this point. This has been a challenging time for all of us. We have always recognized the hard work and important contributions of these employees, and our focus now is to move forward again as a team."

According to county officials, the tentative agreement was reached Monday around 2 a.m., following 15 hours of mediation.

As for the details of the deal, the three-year contract is for 2020-2022 and includes base wage increases of 2% plus an additional $0.55 cents per hour in 2020, 2.25% in 2021, and 2.25% in 2022.

Also included is a higher starting wage rate (nearly 4% higher) for new equipment operators, plus other revisions to wage schedules that allow employees to accelerate through the salary ranges faster, according to the county.

County officials say this means most employees, over the three year period, will receive wage increases of 10.5% to 12.5%, as well as any scheduled paid step increases, which average 3.8%.

One focus area for the union was health insurance.

The county agreed to the union’s request to allow the bargaining unit to choose to leave the county’s self-insured health plan in the future with an employer contribution up to the amount provided to employees covered by its own self-insured health plan. 

While the proposed agreement does not include any changes to the sick leave accrual cap, as originally requested by the union, county officials say it does include enhanced funding with a health savings account option, for the Teamsters health insurance plan, should they elect to leave the county plan.

Also, new as a result of the latest mediation is employees in this bargaining unit will receive one additional permanent personal leave day per year beginning in 2021, according to officials.

Additionally, a deal was reached that will provide another personal leave day sun setting in 2022, in exchange for concessions to give the county more flexibility to use seasonal highway laborers year around.

The County Board is expected to ratify the contract by the end of February.

The contract will be retroactive to January 1, 2020.

Kevin Jacobsen

News Director

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