MADISON, Wis. - The Dane County Board on Thursday night voted to approve a new one-year contract with the county's union.
County leaders and the union that represents Dane County employees, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, have been working on a new labor contract for the past few days.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the county and union had a very short window to work with. Parisi said the county started bargaining with AFSCME for a contract for 2015 after Friday's court decision in which a Dane County judge overturned key parts of Gov. Scott Walker's restrictions on collective bargaining.
The judge ruled the law, Act 10, was unconstitutional as it applied to school and local government workers. The law barred collective bargaining for most public workers over anything other than wage increases no greater than inflation.
County leaders said they wanted to act fast in the small window of time before the judge has the opportunity to order a stay, which would keep the law in effect until it goes through the appeal process.
"What the court decision that overturned Act 10 did is gave us back the tools that we use best in Dane County and allows us to save millions in taxpayer dollars," Parisi said.
The county said the contract for 2015 gives it the flexibility -- nearly $5 million -- to deal with economic uncertainty and budget issues.
These savings would be achieved by wage reductions of up to 1.9 percent, which is equivalent to five furlough or closure days, and employee participation in an unpaid voluntary leave program, which the county said has worked in the past to save money.
"This agreement proves again you can protect both taxpayers and the people who go to work for them everyday and plow roads, care for kids, and keep our community great," Parisi said.
After hours of public comment and even further discussion by the County Board Thursday night, members voted 29-8 to approve the county's new labor contract.
Before Thursday's meeting, some County Board members said they disagreed with going ahead with the contract.
County Supervisor Dennis O'Loughlin said he wishes the county would have waited to see how the courts handle this issue
"To just run into this to get this contract for 2015 signed immediately, I think we should be stepping back and taking a look at it," O'Loughlin said.
The contract is valid unless the judge's ruling calling Act 10 unconstitutional is overturned in the appeals process.
It's now up to union members to approve the contract. They are expected to vote on it next week.
The county's workforce is currently operating under an existing contract through 2013. A one-year successor agreement for 2014 was also approved in January 2011.
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