ST. PAUL (AP) -- The raises included in tentative contract settlements with two state employee unions won't make up for wages lost by workers during the two-week strike that ended Sunday, union leaders have acknowledged.
It could take several years for the average members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees to recoup the lost pay. The contracts, which await ratification votes, span two-year periods.
Typical AFSCME members lost $1,200 in pay, and the average employee represented by MAPE lost $1,900 during the strike, according to estimates by union leaders.
But officials with the striking unions said they won at least a partial victory in the contract negotiations with a compromise on wages and health insurance changes.
"We got part way toward our wage goals," said Peter Benner, executive director of AFSCME Council 6. "We got all the way toward our insurance goals."
Jim Monroe, MAPE's executive director, said employees with high health care costs may come out ahead over the two-year contract because the state lowered its proposed increased copayments and deductibles.
The state's final pre-strike offer to AFSCME, the state's biggest public-employee union, was for a 3 percent across-the-board raise in each year of the two-year contract. The negotiated settlement now awaiting ratification by AFSCME members bumped that raise up to 3.5 percent a year.
And the state's last offer before the strike to MAPE was a one-time raise of 4 percent over 18 months. The negotiated settlement calls for MAPE members to get 3 percent this year and 3 percent next year.
"I said from the beginning this (strike) was about unreasonable expectations," Employee Relations Commissioner Julien Carter said. "And at the end it looks like those expectations became more reasonable."
Taxpayers are out a bit more, too. After insisting that they would be protected and that all the money available for contract increases was on the table, the state budged and offered an increase that Gov. Jesse Ventura says might have to be financed by layoffs.
Estimates differ on how much more the state will pay. MAPE and AFSCME leaders said the net increase will come to about $20 million for the two unions combined. Carter insists that the final offer amounts to $6 million more. The two sides were more than $100 million apart when the strike began Oct. 1.
Carter acknowledged that the state may have saved a few million dollars by not paying employees, but it spent a lot, too, on overtime for non-striking workers, training and pay for National Guard members, and wages for temporary replacements.
It may be several weeks before the state knows whether it saved or lost more money overall.
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