The Becker County Board will take formal action at its regular meeting April 7 to ratify contracts with Teamsters Local 320, which represents about 160 employees who work in the courthouse and the Human Services Department.

Union members voted overwhelmingly to accept the county’s offer on Tuesday, March 17, averting a strike during a time of crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The county is pleased with this outcome,” County Board Chairman Ben Grimsley said in a news release issued Friday, March 20. “We appreciate our employees and are glad to have reached a settlement.”

The terms of the agreement include general wage increases of 2.5% for 2020 and 2.75% for 2021.

Becker County is now in negotiations over the five remaining outstanding labor agreements with other employee unions.

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“We are optimistic that with this settlement, we can move forward quickly with the remaining contracts and allow us to focus on public services during this COVID-19 state of emergency,” Mike Brethorst, Becker County Administrator, said in a news release.

The county approved an emergency declaration last week because of the coronavirus threat, allowing it to more easily obtain funding and order supplies, such as protective equipment needed for the jail and other facilities that must remain open, Becker County Emergency Manager Craig Fontaine said in a news release.

“The declaration is not related to the severity of the situation, or lack of resources or support available,” he said. The action was required to eventually get reimbursed for costs related to the pandemic.

“If everything gets canceled and you have to stay home and nothing happens, please remember that is the point,” Fontaine said.

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