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State mediator will enter Lakehaven talks

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

The Lakehaven Utility District has asked for a state mediator to help kick-start stalled contract negotiations with engineers at the utility’s wastewater treatment plant.

Workers with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 286 have been working without a contract since Jan. 1. Bruce Heniken, the union’s business representative, said the union is deeply unhappy with the takeaways Lakehaven administrators have proposed.

Meanwhile, the district administrators are lamenting the number of cancelled meetings with union officials, which Lakehaven says has delayed negotiations and, ultimately, a resolution to the union’s concerns.

Lakehaven requested a mediator from the Public Employees Relations Commission to step in several weeks ago. “We’re hoping it’s soon,” general manager Donald Perry said.

The last time the utility brought in a mediator to help with contract negotiations, he said, the two sides resolved their differences within five months.

“I’m optimistic we can meet or beat that timeframe,” Perry said. “I’m hoping this thing is resolved before the end of the year. With a mediator pushing, I think we can accomplish that. I don’t see that either side doesn’t want to resolve this issue.”

Heniken said last month that Lakehaven has proposed reductions in sick leave, overtime pay, step and cost-of-living pay increases, and the creation of a paid time-off plan that combines vacation, sick time and some paid holidays, resulting in the loss of three paid holidays during the year.

The workers run the wastewater treatment fplants and do field work.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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