Utility workers reject contract
June 13, 2008 · Updated 12:19 PM
By ERICA HALL
Operating engineers at Lakehaven Utility Districts wastewater treatment plants voted down a proposed new contract last week, sending utility and union leaders back into negotiations with a state mediator.
A second group of unionized workers at the district apparently are close to having a new contract, however.
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 286 members, who rejected an offer Oct. 25, Lakehaven officials and the Public Employees Relations Commission mediator are scheduled to meet again next Tuesday, the day after Lakehaven general manager Don Perry returns from a week-long conference in Washington, D.C.
Perry was unavailable for comment, but Steve Pritchett, the utilitys attorney, said Lakehaven officials expect to continue meeting with union leadership until they can finalize a contract.
The operating engineers run the water-treatment facility, do field work and operate the wastewater treatment plants.
Union officials first rejected a new contract offer last summer, saying it was full of takeaways reductions in sick leave, overtime pay, step pay increases and cost-of-living increases. They also opposed the elimination of the standard sick leave, annual leave and paid holiday system in favor of a combined paid time off policy.
Bruce Heniken, business representative for Local 286, was unavailable for comment Monday.
Pritchett said while that union was still working toward a contract, the districts 19 employees represented by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union (AFSOME) Council 2 is expected to ratify its contract with the utility tomorrow. If they do, the Lakehaven commissioners could vote to accept the deal on Nov. 10.
Lakehaven and Council 2 leadership reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract last week, Pritchett said.
The employees work in finance, customer service, clerical and technical positions.
Pritchett said the AFSCME proposal is similar to the last contract with the group. Step increases and cost-of-living allowances are similar, he said, adding the proposal doesnt change the leave program, so the employees would continue to have the same sick leave, annual leave and paid holidays theyve had in the past.
Pritchett noted that despite the difficulties with the operating engineers, the district is making progress with other workers.
We didnt want to get caught up in the frustrating part of this, he said. We were able to come to a pretty fair and pretty quick contract agreement with the AFSCME unit.
Last summer, 52 of Lakehavens 54 employees signed a letter of no-confidence in Perry. At least one commissioner, Bev Tweddle, has said there has been ongoing differences between Perry and Lakehavens workforce.
Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org