MADISON, Wis. -- Gov. Scott Walker has offered to keep certain collective bargaining rights in place for state workers in a proposed compromise aimed at ending a nearly three-week standoff with absent Senate Democrats, according to e-mails released yesterday by his office.
The e-mails, some dated as recently as Sunday, show a softened stance in Walker's talks with the 14 Democrats who fled to Illinois to block a vote on his original proposal that would strip nearly all collective bargaining rights for public workers and force concessions amounting to an average 8 percent pay cut.
Under the compromise floated by Walker and detailed in the e-mails, workers would be able to continue bargaining over their salaries with no limit, a change from his original plan that banned negotiated salary increases beyond inflation. He also proposed compromises allowing collective bargaining to stay in place on mandatory overtime, performance bonuses, hazardous duty pay and classroom size for teachers.
The increased contributions for health insurance and pension, which would save the state $330 million by mid-2013, would remain. The unions and Democrats have agreed to those concessions to help balance a projected $3.6-billion budget shortfall.
Sen. Bob Jauch, one of the 14 AWOL Democrats, said he hoped the compromise would serve as a blueprint for future negotiations. But he and Sen. Tim Cullen, who were working with Walker's administration, said the latest offer was inadequate.
The e-mails show Jauch had wanted even more items to be subject to bargaining that Walker seeks to eliminate, including sick leave and vacation pay.
"I consider the lines of communication still open," Cullen said. "Whether there's going to be any communicating, remains to be seen."
Walker has repeatedly said he would not budge on the key parts of the bill that's been stymied in the Senate after Democrats left 19 days ago. Since then, the pressure to deal has increased as protests reached as large as 80,000 people, polls show the public wants a compromise and recall efforts were launched against 16 senators, including eight Republicans.