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Lemont

Will County employees approve new contract

After 15 months of negotiations and a 16-day strike, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Will County voted to ratify a new four-year contract on Dec. 5, according to a union news release.

The contract is retroactive to Dec. 1, 2012. The Will County Board will vote on its approval during a Dec. 19 meeting.

County employees returned to work Dec. 5.

The issues debated between the union and the county included wage increases and health care.

"We didn’t want to see our wages lose ground when the cost of living goes up, and we weren't going to accept a health plan where the lowest-paid employees were asked to do more than the highest-paid," said AFSCME Local 1028 President Dave Delrose. "By standing together we reached a fair settlement that achieves those goals."

The contract includes a 4.5 percent cost-of-living wage increase for the next three years and removes two steps on the wage scale, raising employee pay by five percent, the release said.

The union and county also agreed to have employees pay a percentage of the premium of their healthcare benefits, instead of employee contributions being based on a percentage of their salary, according to a county news release.

The county compromised to increase the health care contributions throughout three years from eight to 10 percent aggregate of the health benefits, rather than 10 percent for all three years, the release said.

The employee contributions remain income banded, so that lower paid employees pay less and upper income employees pay more, according to the release.

“The County Board and my office sought to replace an unsustainable method of paying for benefits with a more fiscally responsible model,” said Will County Executive Larry Walsh. “There is only so much money available and we believe this contract will put Will County on a more sustainable path for the future.”

Employees in the AFSCME union work in the county court system, health department, highway department, Sunny Hill Nursing Home, county jail and in the offices of the sheriff, coroner, recorder, assessor, clerk, chief judge, circuit clerk, executive and state's attorney.

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