ST. PAUL (AP) -- With a mixture of relief and anger, state employees returned to their jobs Monday after a two-week walkout.
State agencies and office buildings that had been quiet during the strike buzzed again with light and activity as workers tackled the backlog that piled up before Sunday's tentative contract agreements.
The state's two largest unions -- about half the state's work force -- went on strike Oct. 1 in the largest walkout of state workers in Minnesota history.
Workers ranging from parole officers to tax collectors to zoo staff were to return to their jobs this week.
The executive directors of both unions said they would recommend ratification when the rank-and-file vote on the contracts, which probably won't happen for several weeks.
Council 6 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees settled for 3.5 percent wage increases for each of the next two years. The total package is worth about $100 million.
Workers belonging to the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees would receive 3 percent pay hikes for each of the two years. The MAPE settlement was worth about $73 million.
The final state offers before the strike included back-to-back 3 percent raises for all AFSCME employees for two years and a one-time 4 percent across-the-board raise for MAPE's members.
AFSCME had asked the state for a 5 percent across-the-board raise each of the next two years. For MAPE, the union sought 4.5 percent raises annually.
Members of both unions said the tentative agreements include significant improvements in the health care package over what the state had offered before the strike, including maximum deductibles of about half of what the state had earlier proposed.
Even though leaders of both unions said they'd hoped for more, they said the end result was worth the strike. Council 6 executive director Peter Benner added that holding out for more likely wouldn't have yielded enough to make it worthwhile.
"I consider this a win -- a clear win -- for our members," Benner said.
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