EUGENE, Ore. — Workers represented by Lane County government’s largest labor union entered into the second week of their strike as contract negotiations continue.

Employees marched outside county buildings in Eugene, Oregon, on Monday after nine hours of negotiations failed to produce a contract agreement between the county and union on Sunday, The Register-Guard reported . The negotiations through a state mediator will continue Wednesday.

More than 500 employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees went on strike, seeking higher wages and trying to fend off an attempt to make them pay for health insurance. The union and its nurses unit represent 692 employees, about half of all the county’s employees.

The two sides have been in negotiations since March on a new three-year contract but were more than $20 million apart on employee compensation costs. The county previously offered pay raises of about 3 percent on average in the contract’s first year. The county also wanted employees to start paying $20 to $70 per month toward their health insurance coverage premiums.

County negotiators gave the union a new contract proposal on Sunday, and the union then submitted a counterproposal. Union representatives said the sides appear to be close on the contract terms, but county officials say they’re still far apart.

“The cost at first glance appears beyond the county’s (financial) means,” County spokeswoman Devon Ashbridge said. “We’ll be continuing our evaluation and get clarification.”

Stacy Chamberlain, the Oregon executive director of the union, said the union’s proposal has moved much closer to the county’s.

“The current separation (now) is very small; we believe less than $1 million for the general and nurses units,” Chamberlain said.

County officials said some health, veterans and land management services returned to normal operations on Monday.

This is the union’s first strike in Lane County since 1979.


Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com