HELENA — Members of Montana's three state employee unions said Tuesday that they have approved a plan proposed by union negotiators and the Schweitzer administration that would give state employees their first pay raise in two years.
The plan, which calls for a 1 percent increase in base pay effective in January 2012 and a 3 percent raise in January 2013, must be approved by the Republican-controlled legislature.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer's budget office has said the pay increase would cost the state about $22 million over the next two-year budget period.
Leaders of the MEA-MFT, AFSCME of Montana and the Montana Public Employees Association said the unions voted to approve the pay plan. They did not release the results of the votes.
"I am pleased that our members have ratified this agreement," MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver said in a statement. "This was the best deal we could make, and we will do everything we can to guide it through the 2011 Legislature. We are grateful to Governor Schweitzer for working with us and for continuing good faith pre-budget negotiations."
The raise may not be enough to cover anticipated increases in health insurance costs that employees also face.
"We realize this agreement does not address both pay and health insurance, it does provide a pay increase to all state employees," said Quint Nyman, executive director of the Montana Public Employees Association.
Schweitzer has said a modest pay increase was needed to retain state employees at a time when the work force has faced "vacancy savings," where many jobs are not filled when a worker leaves.