by Evelyn Pyburn
A contract ratification vote by county employees as members of the Montana Federation of Public Employees will be held this week following a settlement of contract negotiations that has been on-going with their employer, Yellowstone County, for almost a year.
A meeting last Wednesday between the union leaders and county officials brought an agreement which averted a strike that union members had voted to let union leadership call if agreement was not reached.
A few days prior to that, County Commissioners held an informational meeting for the public and union members to explain the issue that seemed to be holding up a settlement in negotiations. County union employees have been working since July 1 without a contract.
Commissioner John Ostlund distributed copies at the meeting of the last offer from the county which showed complete agreement with the union on all issues – including wage increases between 9 percent to 24.6 percent — except for one sentence which Ostlund claimed would give the union authority over who the county could hire. The sentence being debated read: “The Board of County Commissioners maintains the final decision on all new hires, including requests to hire at a higher rate.”