County sets stage for post-contract environmentDouglas County supervisors and employees are working side-by-side to develop new policies in the wake of Wisconsin Act 10.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Douglas County supervisors and employees are working side-by-side to develop new policies in the wake of Wisconsin Act 10.
The 2011 law adopted to fix the state budget, stripped most public workers of most collective bargaining rights. The law also requires counties to develop grievance procedures to address termination, discipline, and workplace safety; update personnel policies and employee handbooks; and communicate key issues to those with a stake in the new policies.
Douglas County formed a transition team to deal with the changes presented by the budget fix, and 2011-2013 state budget.
“Many hands make light work,” said Andy Lisak, county administrator.
Douglas County and other counties throughout the state have been encouraged by the Wisconsin County Mutual Insurance Corporation and counties association to organize local teams to address the changes contained in Act 10 and the financial implications of the 2011-2013 state budget, he said.
“Having a grievance procedure in place by Oct. 1 is a requirement of Act 10,” Lisak said. The grievance procedure will cover employees who do not have access to a grievance procedure under a collective bargaining agreement.
By Jan. 1, that includes all county employees who do not work for the sheriff’s department. While the Douglas County Board adopted labor agreements with all of its other unions in May, those agreements only run through Dec. 31, leaving them without protections written into their contracts.
Act 10 fundamentally changes the rights and responsibilities of public sector employers in Wisconsin. With the exception of public safety workers, counties are prohibited from bargaining with a collective bargaining unit with respect to any factor or condition of employment except for total base wages.
“As collective bargaining agreements expire, significant and long-standing employee benefits are no longer subject to bargaining,” Lisak said. “Therefore, it is imperative that we review our employee handbook and personnel policies to ensure that they address terms and conditions of employment for all employees not covered by collective bargaining agreements,” Lisak said.
“Key stakeholders should be aware of what is happening to address the changes mandated by Act 10,” said Douglas County Board Chairman Doug Finn. “Throughout the process, steps will be taken to seek input and ideas from various groups.”
Employees can stay apprised of Transition Team updates and developments by visiting the county’s employee web page at www.douglascountywi.org.
“In addition, we will keep the lines of communication open with our employees in regard to any changes and we will clarify issues as needed,” Lisak said. “Douglas County is fortunate to have a dedicated workforce, and we are committed to providing members of that workforce with a working environment based on the values of respect, fairness and equity.”
Finn said he would like to have policies in place that are workable for management and employees alike.
“I want a balanced approach,” Finn said.