Health costs tie up Oregon labor bargaining

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SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Negotiations between the state and unions representing government workers are heating up over the state's demand that employees chip in part of their health care premiums.

The issue is perhaps the biggest hurdle separating the parties as they negotiate a labor contract for at least the next two years.

Oregon is one of at least eight states that pay the entire health care premium for their workers. But Gov. John Kitzhaber's administration is demanding they pay 5 percent of their premiums.

A mediator stepped in to help about a month ago and officials say contract talks have been advancing slowly. But the parties remain at odds over health care premiums, wage hikes and the number of unpaid days off that workers will be required to take.