REGIONAL— County snowplow drivers were set to be back on the job on Wednesday after members of the 168-member union representing drivers voted unanimously to accept a new offer from …
REGIONAL— County snowplow drivers were set to be back on the job on Wednesday after members of the 168-member union representing drivers voted unanimously to accept a new offer from St. Louis County. The decision ended a week-long strike by Teamsters Local 320 that came just in advance of a major snowfall and left many county roads unplowed in the wake of the storm.
The county did use supervisors and other county employees to partially fill in for the striking workers, but the number of replacement drivers was only about a third as many as were needed in the wake of the storm.
"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 a St. Louis County statement, the tentative agreement is similar to previous offers, including a three-year contract through 2022, with base wage increases of 2 percent plus an additional $0.55 cents per hour in 2020, 2.25 percent in 2021, and 2.25 percent in 2022. Also included is a higher starting wage rate (nearly 4 percent higher) for new equipment operators, plus other revisions to wage schedules that allow employees to accelerate through the salary ranges faster. This means most employees, over the three-year period, will receive wage increases of 10.5 to 12.5 percent, as well as any scheduled step increases, which average 3.8 percent.
County negotiators also 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 the county plan.
While the proposed agreement does not include any changes to the sick leave accrual cap, as originally requested by the union, 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. The total cost for this provision will not exceed what the county contributes for employees in its own plan but provides additional flexibility for the union.
In addition, drivers will receive one additional permanent personal leave day per year beginning in 2021, as a result of the new contract.
The labor impasse was resolved after about 15 hours of mediation between county and union representatives, with assistance from the state Bureau of Mediation Services.
Upon completion of legal review by both parties, the county board is expected to ratify the contract by the end of February. The contract will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020.