Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

County Executive Falk Announces No COLA / No Layoff Labor Union Agreements with County Workers

October 20, 2003
Sharyn Wisniewski (608) 267-8823
County Executive

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, joined today at a press conference by AFSCME union representatives, announced that the county has reached agreement with three of its large employee labor unions. Falk announcing agreement (click to enlarge) In order to hold down costs in a year when the county faces the consequences of $8 million in state cuts, the unions agreed to forego a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in the first year of the contract. The contract also offers improved health care coverage, with significant savings for the county and for employees. As a result of these cost-saving provisions, the unions received a guarantee of no lay-offs in the first year of the contract. Dane County settled labor contracts with the Joint Council of Unions, Social Workers Local 2634, and Local 65. Together, the contracts with AFSCME cover 58% of Dane County’s employees. “We had terrific cooperation from our unions,” said Falk. “Both sides negotiated hard and in record time. Both sides knew the difficult financial situation facing the county next year and were willing to find solutions together. The results are contracts that are good for taxpayers and county employees,” Falk said. “These were groundbreaking negotiations for the Union and the County, made possible by a collaborative spirit,” AFSCME Representative Jack Bernfeld said today. “These settlements demonstrate that the current collective bargaining law for municipal employees continues to work well and produces long term labor peace and employment stability.” The three-year contract calls for no cost of living (COLA) adjustment for county workers in 2004, a key cost-saving measure. In return, the county agreed to no layoffs in 2004. Falk has proposed eliminating 40 vacant positions in county government next year, saving over $2 million in employee costs. Since the positions are vacant, there will be no layoffs. The effect of having no COLA in union pay plans for 2004 saves Dane County taxpayers at least $1.5 million. For the first time, county employees also have a choice in health care providers. The contract with Dean Healthcare, the county’s single provider, expired this year. Both Dean and Physicians Plus vied for the county’s business in covering its 2,000 employees. “Both the unions and the county pushed the health insurers to make their very best offer,” said Falk. “As a result, health care costs for next year will rise less than 7.4%, at a time when many health care plans are rising in double digits, some over 20%.” The county achieved $1.1 million in savings for health care costs for 2004 over what was originally proposed by Dean Health Plan to extend the county’s existing contract. Employees will not have to make co-payments for major services under either HMO option. Settlements with AFSCME local unions usually set the pattern for settlements with the remaining unions. The agreements are effective December 14, 2003 through December 23, 2006. Wage increases under the agreements are: Dec. 14, 2003 0% Dec. 26, 2004 1% June 26, 2005 2.5% December 25, 2005 1% June 25, 2006 3% Some employees will receive length of service increases for longevity. The contracts were ratified by the unions’ membership late last week and are now before the County Board. # # #