Kane County locks in new union contract with KDOT Teamsters

Updated 1/8/2019 6:00 PM

Teamsters employees who work for the Kane County Division of Transportation have a new, four-year contract after a unanimous vote by the county board Tuesday.

While the contract covers only 29 employees, officials hope the deal will be a catalyst to bring other outstanding negotiations to a close.

Eleven of the county's 15 bargaining units are working under expired deals. Most of the union contracts expired in November 2017.

Just last month, it seemed like county officials were closing in on several new deals. The county board even voted in favor of new contracts with six bargaining units.

But less than two weeks later, the board voted to reopen discussions with those same unions when a disagreement arose about how retroactive the deals were.

Union officials believed the new deals were retroactive to the 2018 fiscal year. County officials maintained the deals applied only to the 2019 fiscal year moving forward.

That issue remains unresolved. But with KDOT employees heading into the heart of the snow season, county officials made that contract a priority Tuesday.

It calls for 2 percent raises for each of the four years of the deal. There is also a $350 stipend included for three years of the deal. The stipend alone equals an additional $1,050 per employee for the length of the new contract.

Board member Drew Frasz, transportation committee chairman, said the agreement is a fair deal that preserves the long history of there never being a strike among KDOT union employees.

The agreement comes several months after union employees in the county's court services department went on strike over the summer. Those employees are also represented by the Teamsters.

One question still unanswered is where the money will come from to fund the new contracts.

The trend in negotiations is toward 2 percent raises. County finance officials said if each outstanding contract provided a 2 percent pay raise for county employees, it would add $1.3 million in new spending to the 2019 budget alone. There is no ongoing pool of money identified to fund that cost so far.

"It's always a balancing act between our budget and these negotiations," Frasz said. "The whole budget process is done in the open. So (the unions) know exactly how much money we have. Hopefully, they see the reality that we've been running under a lean budget for about eight years now, and this deal is a basis to bring the other negotiations to a close."

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