FOREST CITY | The Winnebago County Board of Supervisors moved to reject the Winnebago County Workman’s Association offer of 30 months of insurance for retirees and accept the 90 percent for a six-month probationary period, after which it would be 100 percent of the base salary.
This came as a compromise on the insurance agreement on WCWA after the insurance for retirees was taken out of the workman’s association’s contract.
If the Supervisors approved it, the insurance agreement was going to be put in the handbook, but because it would be difficult to give to all the county departments and working groups, they rejected it.
“Because of a change in the laws, it’s hard to make it fair across the board and affordable within the whole county, so we can’t really single out the Workman’s Association, it’s not a negotiable item,” Supervisors Chairman Terry Durby said.
The original contract containing the insurance for retirees was drafted in the late 90s, according to county engineer Scott Meinders. Since then, laws have changed, making it difficult for the County to offer the same benefits to the WCWA.
“We just don’t see a way we can offer it and be fair to the rest of the workers and not get sued because of the fact we have all men working on the roads, it may come back to somebody else can complain that it’s a gender discrimination, that it’s not offered to, say, women in the courthouse or in the nurse’s office or whatever,” Durby said. “We would set ourselves up for a lawsuit by singling that out, and we just can’t afford to do it for the whole county.”
Durby said when talking with their human resources lawyer, Mike Galloway, the Supervisors came up with a 90, 95, 100 probationary period instead of the 80, 90, 100 period it was originally.
Supervisor Bill Jensvold said that was what most counties did, and WCWA representative Ethan Schutter said most counties did a six-month probationary period.
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However, when they tried to compare probationary periods with the engineering department and the sheriff’s department, Schutter said the WCWA was incomparable to other departments because they are a completely different group.
“That’s what you guys are trying to do, is compare everything, apples to apples,” he said. “Nothing’s the same. I mean, the people at the courthouse are different from us. I mean, that’s not all the same. We don’t do the same thing. We’re a totally different group. It’s why it’s secondary roads department.”
Despite being different departments, everybody still likes having the same benefits as each other, Jensvold said.
“Nobody likes getting the short end of the stick, so it doesn’t matter what office you’re in, you’ve got to have policies that are across the board in a sense in order to have the appearance of fairness, I guess,” Jensvold said.
Because most other departments’ employees are ready for the next wage step after six months of employment, the Supervisors agreed to shorten the probationary period to six months.
Now the agreed 90 percent for a probationary period of six months and 100 percent base salary afterward will be put into the contract.
“We're actually taking the contract and bettering the contract,” Durby said.