US & Canada

Wisconsin protests: 'Anti-union' bill passes assembly vote

Protesters in the Wisconsin state capitol
Image caption Protestors continue to fill the state capitol

A controversial bill that would restrict the collective bargaining rights of public workers in Wisconsin has passed the state's lower chamber, but political deadlock remains.

Republican lawmakers voted the bill through the state Assembly late on Thursday.

But the bill cannot pass in the state Senate until absent Democrats return.

Gov Scott Walker says the move is needed to help balance the recession-hit state budget.

But tens of thousands of people have turned out every day to demonstrate against the curbs to union activity.

Fourteen Democrats in the Senate remain in virtual hiding outside of the state, and until they return the chamber lacks a quorum for a vote.

They say they will not return until Gov Walker agrees to negotiate the terms of the bill.

Among its provisions, the bill would limit public workers' right to collective bargaining other than for base wages and require them to contribute more of their pay to their pensions and healthcare.

Mr Walker says the bill is needed to repair the state's $3.6bn (£2.23bn) budget deficit expected in the next two-year fiscal period.

The public employee bill is expected to save $300m in that period.

But unions, who with their supporters remained massed at the state capitol for a ninth day on Thursday in protest against the bill, have agreed to the cuts to their compensation, and charge Mr Walker seeks to break the labour union movement in Wisconsin.

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