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


12.03.2009

 

VSEA headed for pay cut

A 3 percent pay decrease is coming for state workers in the upcoming two-year contract, if members approve it.

The Douglas administration is suggesting this should be the model for other public employees (i.e. schools) and nonprofits (i.e. all those with big salaries that get state money).

What do you make of it?

Here are the releases from the gov's office and the union:

Gov:
Governor Jim Douglas and Secretary of Administration Neale Lunderville today announced that agreement on a new two-year contract has been reached with the Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA). The contract, which was signed by both parties earlier today, includes a 3% wage reduction as well as no automatic yearly wage adjustments or step increases for the duration of the contract. This settlement is very good news for the taxpayers of Vermont. It recognizes the Governor’s call to share the sacrifice broadly during these very challenging economic times.



“In this economy, as thousands of Vermonters are unemployed and tens of thousands more have seen their pay, hours and benefits cut, and as our state faces massive budget shortfalls in the coming years, it is appropriate that public employees share in the sacrifice,” said Governor Douglas. “This contract is a critical step towards bringing state spending in line with declining revenues.”

This new contract will produce $2 million in General Fund savings for FY2011, which will help offset a budget shortfall of at least $150 million. Importantly, wage costs will not increase over the two year period aggravating the overall deficit – although health care costs are expected to rise. The contract does not contain either changes to employee contributions for health care benefits or any modifications to the employee wellness and tuition reimbursement programs.

While net savings are small as compared to our total budget challenge, the significance of this agreement cannot be understated. “This deal sets the new standard for all public employee salaries in Vermont, as well as for non-profits who get a significant portion of their revenue from the State,” said Secretary Lunderville. “As families struggle to make ends meet, this agreement shows a common sense approach that should be applied to salaries for public sector employees and can serve as a blueprint for teachers, municipal workers and others who receive a paycheck from taxpayers.”



Economists have reported that Vermonters have lost over $1 billion dollars in income in the past year. In the last two years, state employees have received an average 7% increase. During the same two year period, the Governor, his appointees and some other elected officials took a 5% pay cut and have had wages frozen since July 1, 2008.


Union:

Representatives of the Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) and representatives of the Douglas Administration met this morning to sign a new contract proposal covering VSEA members in three separate bargaining units for 2010-2012. The proposal will now be subject to a vote by all state employees working in the VSEA bargaining units covered by the new agreements

“As many longtime VSEA bargaining team members will attest, this round of bargaining was unlike any other they have ever participated in,” said VSEA Director Jes Kraus. “Our bargaining team members understand the reality of the current economic crisis, and they have been trying to help for nearly a year. Ultimately, it took a decision by an experienced fact finder to get the Administration to accept any help from state employees.”

Kraus explained that the fact finder’s report was accepted by both parties, leading to the formal proposal signed today. The fact finder’s recommendations include a 3 percent pay cut, followed by a two-year pay freeze. The 3 percent cut will be restored at the end of the two-year contract, when the State is likely to be on more solid economic ground.

“Nobody likes a pay cut and pay freeze, but VSEA bargaining team members determined the fact finder’s proposal to be the fairest way to help with the economic crisis, which is why they voted overwhelmingly to take the proposal to the membership,” explained Kraus.

VSEA will be holding a series of statewide “contract explanation” meetings to allow union members to ask questions and get more information about the new proposal before voting.


- Terri Hallenbeck

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Comments:
JIM = JOBless
 
Vermont Legislature = clueless
 
I hope the employees accept the deal. The good thing is they get the pay cut back in a couple of years. I think the governor must have wanted a whole lot more then just a temporary fix like this one. He must have beacked down. It's about time.
 
Good job Jim.

It's a tough thing to do but as a State we have to live within our means. You can only tax us so much!
 
The administration doesn't really think the cut will be restored because it will happen in the year following the two-year contract. VSEA -- be careful!
 
welcome to the race to the bottom.
 
With the number of positions eliminated and now this pay cut, I hope state workers will be held harmless over the coming legislative session. They've sacrificed enough.
 
State employees have now done far more than any other worker in the state - except for those workers who have lost their jobs.

If only Jim Douglas would tighten his belt - he wouldn't be able to breathe - based on where he pulls his pants up to!
 
Legislators could give a crap about state employees--until they need their votes. I hope these employees remember which legs stood up for them and who turned tail. The list for them to support won't number more than 6 probably. If even that.
 
What we have not heard is how many state administration jobs will be eliminated and whether the Douglas crew will be subjected to the 3% pay cut? Also the union probably got the best of this deal. The cost of health insurance premiums is the elephant in the room. It appears that Douglas made absolutely no headway on this issue.
 
The VDEA members should vote against this deal.
 
The membership should vote against the deal.
 
If VSEA votes against this contract - the next step is last best offer to the Labor Board - appointed by Douglas!

And the scenario is not looking good since the the proposed contraact is essentially the Arbitration summmary.

If teh were still no agreement - either side could then take it to the legislature.

And this would definitely not be in the union's best interest as the legislature has huge issues with the budget to resolve and could open up the entire contract including retirement.

All in all, this is a reasonable proposal and the union should accept - the next alternative is worse!
 
Yes. Do not worry state emps. If you toss this offer, your legislative friends will help you when they get their hands on your contract. Trust them.
 
This is an interesting test. Just how much will services degrade or disappear when the economy improves and state workers get jobs in the private economy? Do they replace them with less experienced and qualified people (those who will work for less)?

This is the Douglas, I mean gutless, way out of all state problems. Blame the bureaucrats! Blame the school boards! This man has taken the easy way out of every problem he's ever faced. Thank heavens he is going back to the yacht club.
 
Voting against the contract is the right thing to do.
 
There needs to be the example of push back against the cuts. It's ridculous to make working people pay,
 
Thats right - vote against it!
 
"Working people"? You're working (and I use that term figuratively) with MY MONEY.

Signed,
A Taxpayer
 
State workers have been paying 20% of health insurance for many years. This is much more than most teachers and state workers in other states. I heard NH workers just agreed to pay a whopping 5%!

Douglas wanted State workers to pay 100% of future increases in health insurance! Within a few years they would be paying almost half and they would all be in the poor house or bankrupt. Thank goodness he did not prevail!!!

This is a bad deal but it's the best deal the State workers can get in this environment of cut, cut and cut more and huge deficits. The Governor and the Legislature are both guilty of throwing State workers "under the bus" as they say.
 
"State workers have been paying 20% of health insurance for many years. This is much more than most teachers and state workers in other states."

???

Waaaaaaahhhh.

You don't get it do you. Comparing yourself to state workers from other states is like Bernie Madoff comparing himself to Jeff Skilling.

You still have it far better than the average Vermont provate sector worker -- you remember, the people you're supposed to be working for?

Quit yer bitchin and get back to work. Your fifth cig break of the day is over.
 
Interesting that you don't like state workers comparing their benefits to other states BUT you are probably one of those who compares VT state workforce to NHs.
 
??? I don't know what a "provate" sector is but you need to check your facts. State workers don't make more than the average private sector employee, certainly not the private sector employee doing the same job. If you just compare averages across the board you are including state engineers and people with higher degrees and someone working at Wall-Mart. Of course the engineer makes more. But they make a heck of a lot less than an engineer in the private sector. Same for nurses and information technology.
 
jim,you cry poverty but you keep giving money away!!!!cut some of your programs..
 
Gov't is not an employment service. When times are tough the gov't must reduce the services it provides and cut the workforce. Period.
 
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