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Olmsted deputies approve furlough plan

By Jeffrey Pieters

jpieters@postbulletin.com

Members of the Olmsted County Deputy Sheriff’s Association have begun taking unpaid time off and voluntarily agreed to let their leaders develop a plan to take additional furlough days this year to help with the county’s budget deficit.

The 125-member union is one of six bargaining groups representing Olmsted County employees.

Other employee groups and unions might soon follow in the cost-saving furlough program.

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Olmsted County is facing a $6.2 million state funding cut over the next two years.

"We understand times are tough and we want to make it better," said Mike Bromberg, a deputy sheriff who represents the union.

Bromberg said the plan is aimed at avoiding job layoffs.

The union voted Feb. 12-13 by a 2-to-1 margin for the plan.

It authorizes the union’s leaders to make an agreement with county administration on a plan putting employees on as many as 12 days of unpaid leave this year.

The county earlier adopted such a plan for about 250 non-contract employees. Some have already begun taking scheduled days off from work.

The largest union representing county employees, the 525-member Olmsted County Employees Association, is scheduled to vote a week from today on whether to ratify a new employment contract that includes up to 96 hours of furlough per employee, said Paula Kath, the association’s business manager.

The county administration has asked all six unions to approve furlough plans, and is keeping employees abreast of current financial issues, including the likelihood of layoffs later this year.

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"All the groups that we’ve met with have understood the challenging financial position that the organization is in," said David Mueller, county human resources director.

The furlough proposal has generally received a "very positive" reaction, Mueller said.

International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, representing 33 employees at the county’s Waste-to-Energy facility, is also negotiating a new contract, Mueller said.

The Deputy Sheriff’s Association agreed initially to just two unpaid days off per employee — their members’ share of the participation so far in January and February, Bromberg said.

It remains to be seen whether the deputies participate to the full 96-hour level, he said.

"We’re working with as minimal (staff) as we have," Bromberg said.

"If it becomes unsafe, then we’ve got to look at it and say this is not working."

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