Benton County Courthouse (copy) (copy)
ANDY CRIPE, Gazette-Times File

The Benton County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a new contract for the county's largest labor union.

The new four-year deal with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees covers 288 of the county's 450 or so employees, from mechanics and road maintenance workers to planners and engineers.

Under the new bargaining agreement, employees represented by AFSCME under the county's new six-step salary scale will receive a 2 percent raise retroactive to July 1, the day after the previous deal expired. Members of the bargaining unit will get a 1.5 percent raise in year 2, a 1.25 percent pay hike in year 3 and a 1 percent increase in the final year of the deal.

A small number of employees still covered under the old 11-step scale will get larger percentage increases in each of the first two years.

Workers in the county's traditional health insurance plan will shoulder a slightly larger share of the premium cost, which will rise from 12 percent under the old contract to 15 percent for the next four years.

Those covered by one of the county's high-deductible plans will see an increase in the county's contributions to their health savings accounts of $100 or $150 per year, depending on which plan option they're in, and the county will continue paying the full premium.

The contract also calls for the county to kick in the equivalent of 1.5 percent of each worker's salary to a deferred compensation account on an annual basis, a new benefit for the AFSCME bargaining unit.

County staff estimated the new contract would cost taxpayers an additional $3.7 million in pay and benefits over its four-year life.

Union members ratified the deal on Sept. 20. Negotiations began in February and concluded Aug. 1, but the previous contract expired June 30. AFSCME-represented county employees have been working under the old contract since then.

Local 2064 President Peter Banwarth called the contract a solid deal for his membership. 

"A strong majority of our AFSCME members approved this contract," said Banwarth, an epidemiologist who works in the Health Department. "We look forward to continuing to work with the county and serving the people of Benton County."

Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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