Ramsey County will give $500 to $1000 pandemic bonuses to workers as part of a three-year deal with labor unions representing more than half its workforce.
The County Board approved the agreement this week with nine bargaining units of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represent a wide range of staff including public health nurses, parks workers, social workers, financial-assistance workers and nursing home staff. The unions represent approximately 2,335 employees, which is 54% of the county workforce.
Workers who have been "required to work on-site and provide direct in-person services/care" will receive $1,000 bonuses, while workers who worked remotely will get $500. The county is tapping some of its $108 million in federal aid as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to cover the bonuses.
"The one-time payments recognize the heroic efforts of staff across the many areas of Ramsey County who have been going over-and-above ceaselessly for nearly two years in service of our residents, businesses and other stakeholders," said Ramsey County Manager Ryan O'Connor in a written statement. "Ramsey County remained open at all points during the pandemic thanks to the commitments of our employees and their dedication to this community."
The county also agreed to a 1.5% raise this year, a 2.25% raise next year and 2.25% in 2024.
In return, workers agreed to a small increase in health care costs. Family coverage will increase $6 to $571 a month and individual coverage will go up $3 to $78 a month.
In addition, workers agreed to exchange one of their floating holidays for the newly created Juneteenth holiday, which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States after the Civil War.
Each of the nine bargaining units voted to ratify the agreement Jan. 21, according to board documents. They did not immediately return a request for comment.
With the backdrop of record inflation and nearly two years of pandemic disruptions, negotiations dragged on for months. Both sides agreed to outside mediation through the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services, which helped the parties reach a deal on Dec. 30.
The county is still negotiating 14 contracts with unions that represents approximately 22% of the total workforce.
The city of Roseville also used some of its federal COVID-19 aid to give $2,000 bonuses to police officers and firefighters.