The City of Minneapolis should maintain its capacity to perform its own electrical inspections, says International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 292.

Last fall, the City Council voted to eliminate the 10-person electrical inspections unit, citing costs. The council instead opted to begin using independent contractors who perform state electrical inspections to take over Minneapolis inspections.

Unless the council votes soon to reverse last fall’s action, “as of April 30 the electrical inspections unit will be dissolved,” said Van Welke, Local 292 business representative. “We hope the City Council revisits this [decision] after the information we’ve given them.”

Local 292 has prepared a briefing book for the new City Council, which now includes five new members who were not in office for the earlier vote.

Using the city’s own data, Welke says, the purported cost savings for shutting down the unit don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Plus, he adds, “they need to revisit the safety issue in the city and what control they have over electrical inspections.”

Welke also notes that shutting down the electrical inspections unit runs counter to the city’s recent move to establish a “One-Stop Shop” to help speed along the permitting process. Permit applicants now will need to make separate arrangements to coordinate with state inspectors.

State inspectors, Welke continues, will only be able to inspect the work outlined in the permit. The city’s inspectors, on the other hand, also could note any other concerns discovered. “Even though it cost you a little more,” he says, “they were a little more thorough about it.”

The council’s move to eliminate the embattled unit came during protracted negotiations for a new contract. The electrical inspectors had refused to accept a two percent wage increase cap mandated by the mayor.

“We believed it was illegal to have a two percent cap,” Welke says. “Because we didn’t buckle under, this is the outcome,” he charges. “Really it was about bargaining.”

Ultimately, the 10-member unit accepted the cap, just recently signing a contract. “These are 10 workers who stood up for their rights to bargain in good faith,” Welke contends. Restoring their jobs, he says, is “the right thing to do.”

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