State employees avoid furloughs in tentative contract

AFSCME leader
Eliot Seide is executive director of the state's largest public employees union, AFSCME Council 5.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Officials with Minnesota's two largest public employee unions -- and the state -- have announced a tentative agreement on a new two-year contract.

A news release from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5 and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees said the agreement would preserve public services, save jobs and prevent furloughs. The agreement reached today was based on a mediator's proposal.

Union leaders strongly objected a month ago when state negotiators proposed that workers take up to 48 days of unpaid leave over two years as a way to save money. Neither side is releasing details until union members are notified.

Information posted on the MAPE Web site claims the state pulled forced furloughs off the table after the union showed its would cost taxpayers more than $4 million. But state officials have a different view of the issue. A news release from Minnesota Management and Budget says the state retains its existing ability to furlough employees if necessary.

With the state facing budget deficit, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has repeatedly urged public employees to accept a wage freeze as a way to minimize layoffs. Union officials had reported a recent state proposal asked for wage reductions. The MAPE Web site says the settlement would freeze health care premiums for one year, but there's no mention of wages.

The two-year contract would cover 32,000 state workers. Union members will vote to ratify the contract.

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