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Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



Talks break down between VSEA and Douglas administration

The Douglas administration and the Vermont State Employees Association spent seven hours in talks Monday in a last ditch effort to avert layoffs, but failed.

As a result, the administration will start the layoff process Tuesday. Two hundred or more workers may lose their jobs.

The irony is that the two sides agreed on how to find $7.4 million in labor savings this year and that was supposed to be the subject of the talks. They had compromised on four furlough days and three fewer paid holidays and tapping savings from a medical plan.

The dispute was over some other strings each wanted to attach to this deal. The administration wanted the union to agreed to permanent future savings -- because the state's financial problems are long-term. First the administration asked for about $38 million in savings over two years -- with details of how to be negotiated later. Monday night, the administration was willing to settle for $20 million over two years.

The union wanted to talk about that stuff out later, but made an offer Monday of $10 million over two years. In return, the union wanted a guarantee of no more layoffs this year, next year or the year after.

The gap was too big and no deal could be reached. The two sides walked away from the table with little hope of returning.

Lawmakers will be miffed. The Joint Fiscal Committee urged the two sides to find the $7.4 million in savings without resorting to layoffs. Lawmakers even told the administration they thought it was making a mistake to push for future concessions as part of these talks.

Lawmakers couldn't, however, get in the midst of contract talks that didn't involve them -- much as they would have liked to.

Anyone see any chance this can have a different ending?

-- Nancy Remsen

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Douglas never wanted to negotiate - this is union busting, plain and simple.
Jim Douglas did not really want to negotiate - it's his way or the highway!

Vermont State Workers are working Vermonters with families, mortgages, college and taxes to pay.

Jim Douglas has demonized these hard working folks.
What the heck does he care about 2011, 2012? He's quitting. Probably be living the high life with a pension based on his inflated salary. GOP and Chamber will pad the nest even more. Jim cares about Jim.
Jim Douglas is not negotiating in good faith!

Other states (inc. those with conservative GOP Governors) are actually trying to save jobs by working with the unions - not Douglas!

His attitude is to demoralize and destroy the union - this would be bad for Vermonters and bad for Vermont families!
hmm the union wants 5 years guaranteed free of layoffs? that's a great incentive to be productive.
We wouldn't even be talking about layoffs in Vermont if it wasn't for Obama's failed economic policies. You in la-la land will have to stop blaming Bush at some point and realize your real mistake was electing Obama. If he would have put a moratorium on all payroll taxes last Jan/Feb we would not be discussing layoffs. This money would have been spread to all workers and they would have circulated it by now. Instead, Obama gives it to the banks, insurance companies and auto makers and how much of that has helped VT- Insignificant amounts. Where is 8500 jobs we were going to have by year end- instead we have lost 3500- Come on Obama, Leahy, Sander and Welch- keep your promises.
Anonymous 9:41a...

Aren't you stretching the truth a bit?

The union was asking for a guarantee for the rest of this year and the next 2 years - nowhere near the 5 years you spoke of.

By the way, these types of guarantees have been the norm around the country in negotiations.

Gov Rell (CT) just agreed to a similar proposal.
You got that right!
Wow NEK -
You certainly like to revise history and have certainly swallowed the GOP koolaid on demonizing Obama......

The facts are that:
1) this economy went south long before Obama was elected;

2) the overall weakness of the economy was never understood by even the best economic minds;

3) Bush policies inc. how to fund 2 wars "outside" the budget are the reason the economy tanked;

4) and, if you think Obama or anyone could have turned this around quicker, I have some swampland to sell you!
Obama had 100 or more economic experts on his campaign staff and you are telling me they had no clue!
What is worse, he still doesn't have a clue and is making things worse with his cash for clunkers- cap and trade (tax)- bailing out newspapers (next)- taking over student loans- Obamacare fiasco will cost everyone more money.
Obama's welfare budget is already more than Bush spent in both wars.
You are right about one thing, the economy heading south prior to the election. Bush was okay until 2006 when he lost support during mid-term elections and he then he tried to please everyone and spent money we didn't have.
The Administration is absolutely right to look for savings for future years, when we know there will be budget shortfalls, so the same deal doesn't have to be negotiated over and over again each year.

Lay them off.

Maybe then they'll start negotiating in good faith.

It's Douglas and his administration that is NOT negotiating in good faith!

Let's see -
1) All (JFC, Administation and VSEA) agreed to find $7.4 million in savings for the current year budget.

2) The VSEA put forth a pkg that included $7.4 million.

3) Gov Douglas stepped back and said he then wanted $10 million in savings in each of the next 2 years - HILE the VSEA and the Administration are in contract negotiations for a new 2 year contract.

4) The JFC tells the administration to only look for the $7.4 million for this year while the contract negotiations are on-going.

Sounds to me like the Douglas administration is negotiating in bad faith.
Oh, I see. Douglas is supposed to do what the Democratically-controlled, state-employees-union-bought-and-paid-for legislature tells him to do?, regardless of whether it's financially wise?

Plug a 7.4 million leak, but ignore those bigger leaks on the other side of the boat.

Yeah, that sure makes sense.
You missed the point!

I never said he should do what the legislature says - unfortunately with Douglas, it's his way or the highway!

Jim Douglas originally told the JFC and VSEA that they needed $7.4 million... AND after the union came back with $7.4, he then drew a new line in the sand asking for $10 million more each year for the next 2 years.

Despite the fact that Douglas and the union are already in negotiations for the next 2 year contract.
No, YOU missed the point.

My point was that Douglas shouldn't have to renegotiate the same savings again next year.

You missed the point entirely.
douglas is a back stabber,he is twisting the truth.and he should have to renegotiate, the economy is coming back..douglas is misleading everyone he wont be gov too much longer.
Blah, blah, blah.

De-unionize state employees. No one is "entitled" to a job the taxpayers pay for.
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