The State and VSEA Non-Management Unit, Corrections Unit and Supervisory Unit Bargaining Teams were engaged in negotiations with the Scott Administration for successor collective bargaining agreements since early August 2017. The current contracts expire on June 30, 2018. The State demanded cuts and concessions to the Health Plans, Overtime Compensation, VSEA Leave Time, and much more; while at the same time offering NO wage and NO step increases. The State and VSEA did not reach an agreement in direct bargaining and impasse was declared. The Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) appointed a federal mediator as provided for in the State Employees Labor Relations Act (SELRA). The Unit Bargaining Teams participated in mediation but were unable to reach a settlement with the State continuing its demands. Following notification to the VLRB that the State and VSEA intended to proceed to fact finding, the VLRB appointed Richard Boulanger, Esq. to serve as the neutral, third party fact finder. Mr. Boulanger conducted fact finding hearings on December 15, 2017 and December 18, 2017.
The State and VSEA received the fact finding report from Richard Boulanger on February 7, 2018 with written findings and recommendations in compliance with criteria established in SELRA. The fact finding report offers non-binding recommendations that the fact finder concludes are fair, reasonable, and balance the interests of State employees, the State and the citizens of Vermont. The State and the Non-Management, Corrections, and Supervisory Bargaining Unit Bargaining Teams had 20 calendar days following receipt of the report to meet with the State and attempt a negotiated settlement. The Bargaining Teams met with the State on February 21, 2018 where VSEA proposed accepting the fact finder’s recommendations; however, negotiators for the Scott Administration continued demanding additional cuts and concessions in return for low wage increases.
On February 28 the VSEA and the State each filed a Last Best Offer (LBO) package of proposals to the VLRB. The VSEA package included the improvements and changes recommended by the fact finder, while the Scott Administration submitted a package that included the VSEA concessions recommended by the finder combined with the State’s previous demands for cuts and concessions plus a new demand that VSP Lieutenants receive a lesser pay increase. The Labor Board conducted a hearing on March 20, 2018 to provide an opportunity for oral argument from both parties prior to selecting the package of proposals in its entirety from the State or VSEA or if both were unacceptable, the VLRB could select the fact finding report. In several previous Last Best Offer decisions, the VLRB was reluctant to disturb status quo language on significant issues and had strongly considered the written findings and recommendations of the fact finder in making its decision. However, that has all changed. The VSEA received the VLRB decision on March 30 selecting the State’s LBO package. VSEA has provided extensive information to union members on the VLRB decision and the events surrounding the selection of the State’s LBO package. Attached is an outline of the contract changes resulting from the State’s LBO package and also agreements reached during direct negotiations.
Please note that there will be NO ratification vote by the membership on these contract changes that are imposed by statute under the State Employees Labor Relations Act. Also note that the LBO decision by the VLRB is pending appropriation of funds by the Vermont Legislature.
The Non-Management, Corrections, and Supervisory Unit Bargaining Teams and VSEA staff worked diligently to seek a mutually negotiated agreement and avoid this unnecessary period of impasse that resulted in a Labor Board decision. However, the Scott Administration appeared to have little interest in agreeing to a fair settlement and instead sought damaging changes to your compensation, insurance copays, and employee representation. Our union continued fighting for contract improvements while concurrently defending our successful health insurance plans, modest wage increases, fair overtime rates, and a benefit package necessary to compete with jobs in the private sector. The outcome of this negotiation was disappointing and unexpected. Throughout this entire bargaining process, the support and solidarity of VSEA members was steadfast. Thank you all.
Non-Management Unit Chair
Corrections Unit Chair
Supervisory Unit Chair