DANVILLE — An agreement for a new four-year contract for judicial and non-judicial county unions was refused by employees Friday evening.
More than eight months of negotiations between the county and the employees’ union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 21, came to a head on Sept. 3 when representatives for both sides signed off on a tentative agreement.
But while representatives approved the deal, the county employees did not. Workers voted down the proposal at a vote Friday night. The vote totals were not known as of Monday, although it is believed the tallies were close, according to Vermilion County Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Donahue, who serves as the county board’s attorney.
The proposed agreement called for a pay increase for employees through the elimination of the longevity program — a lump sum payment workers received at the end of the calendar year. Based on their years worked, employees would have received anywhere from $120 to $1,320 added to their base salary.
Personal days also were to be cut down from 14 days to six days during the course of the four-year contract to go along with two weeks’ vacation and 12 paid holidays as set each year by the Illinois Supreme Court. Donahue, who was involved in negotiations, said six days is competitive with what is in the community currently.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard said the intent of the contract, overall, was to make $20,000 the floor salary for employees.
“We have gone out there and recruited good people and kept good people,” he said Monday. “But with some of the salaries at the bottom end, we find they come to work for us and get some experience and move on to other jobs with more money.
“We want to stem the turnaround,” he added.
Weinard said county board negotiators were disappointed the agreement was not approved at Friday’s vote, stressing it was not the county’s “last, best” contract offer.
He believed the issue of personal days and longevity were the sticking points for employees who voted down the tentative agreement, although as of Monday afternoon the county had not heard from union officials.
Union Chief Steward Doris Halls, when contacted via email, said she might have a statement later Monday evening.
“We’re open for what their suggestions are,” he said. “This has gone on for eight or nine months. It’s not like it was hastily thrown together in a couple hours over a couple cups of coffee.”
While the contract was voted down, several options remain on the table at this point. Donahue said the union will probably go back and talk before contacting the county again.
“There’s a lot of different choices at this point,” he said, noting that a mediator could be brought in at some point. “No one wants a strike.”
Courthouse workers were the last union of county employees to go on strike when they hit the picket lines in the summer of 2004. The strike lasted for a little more than two weeks before workers returned to their jobs.