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Yellowstone County workers agree on wages, disagree on management issue

County Court House.JPG
Posted at 11:11 PM, Jan 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-12 01:11:39-05

Contract negotiations continue for Yellowstone County court house employees, who have been working without a contract since July.

One of the main issues involves management rights and hiring somebody with experience at a wage higher than advertised.

The county negotiating team gave an update in the commissioners boardroom on Wednesday, about the mediation with the union on Saturday.

A public meeting helped inform department heads, elected officials and supervisors about the latest negotiations with the Montana Federation Of Public Employees (MFPE) for more than 120 courthouse workers.

"Oh, I'm sure that people are concerned about the unknown," Dwight Vigness, the county's human resource director, said about receiving many questions about the negotiations.

Vigness said the county wants the opportunity to hire employees with experience at a higher wage.

A "justification hire form" would then go to the human resources director and potentially the union president.

The proposed contract from the county states: "The Board of County Commissioners maintains the final decision on all new hires, including requests to hire at a higher rate."

"We would like to have the ability to slot that person in at commensurate compensation whether they had five or six years because without that ability, we might not even be able to hire that employee," Vigess said.

The union proposal states: "If commissioners approve the request, all incumbent employees who are below that wage, and in that same grid shall be brought up to the approved rate of pay for the newly hired employee."

"I think that's a sticking point," Vigness said. "If I'm wrong, I'd be glad to be corrected."

Both the union and county proposals show the same pay increases:

  • .9% to 24.9% for various employees in fiscal year 2023
  • 3% in fiscal years 2024,2025 and 2026
  • 4.5% in fiscal year 2027

"We're close on the on the wages," Vigness said. "It's just the language."

MFPE union leaders are not ready to comment, but say new information about the negotiations will be available on Friday.

Meanwhile, Vigness says a mediator has sent some potential meeting dates.

"Oh I think it's a great sign that we continue to work, continue to mediate and and continue to meet," Vigness said.