June 28, 2016
VSEA’s Judiciary Bargaining Team sent a blast to Unit members today, which included the following:
"On Friday, the Judiciary’s lawyer sent a letter asking the Fact Finder to shut down the process unilaterally, over our objection, before he hears testimony from your bargaining team. The Judiciary stated that your bargaining team members’ testimony “is not worthy of the additional expense and time.”
VSEA has objected in the strongest terms to their effort to silence your elected leaders."
Read portion of the Team’s message to members here:
Dear Members of VSEA’s Judiciary Unit,
As you may know, your bargaining team is working hard to win a contract that ensures fair pay, and also protects your right to a fair reclassification hearing on the evidence before a neutral fact finder if you are not paid according to the work you actually perform. We are in Fact Finding, the next to last step in the legal process to resolve impasse. On Friday, the Judiciary’s lawyer sent a letter asking Fact Finder to shut down the process unilaterally, over our objection, before he hears testimony from your bargaining team. The Judiciary stated that your bargaining team members’ testimony “is not worthy of the additional expense and time.”
VSEA has objected in the strongest terms to their effort to silence your elected leaders. We have spent three days in Fact Finding already. The Judiciary proposed and continues to insist on 17 different demands, including concessions on Columbus Day, Sick Leave, Union Rights, Steward Training, the Employee Development Fund, and insists that we give up the right to start bargaining before the Judiciary’s budget is submitted to the Legislature. Rather than deal with the problem of low pay for Docket Clerks and Court Officers, they insist that you give up your right to bargain over the issue in exchange for a promise that they will hire a consultant to do a study. In fact, they have already hired a consultant who concluded that pay levels for Docket Clerks are: ”very competitive at all levels of experience.” He went on to find that: “With the current pay range, the State Judiciary should not have a problem attracting and retaining employees with the required qualifications.” In fact, nearly a quarter of the Docket Clerk positions have turned over since July 1, 2015.
Your bargaining team is fighting to keep existing benefits and rights, and is looking for improvements in a few areas:
- We want a fair process for reclassification appeals. Currently, employees who are underpaid for the work they do submit an ”RFR” to a panel that is controlled by management, and chaired by the Human Resources Manager. The panel takes evidence in secret, without the employee or the union in the room. If the employee loses in front of the committee, he or she may appeal to someone selected by the Court Administrator and the Chief Justice. The process is deliberately designed to be cumbersome, in order to discourage appeals. Your team is simply asking for a a fair hearing on the evidence in front of a neutral decision maker.
- We want to address the low pay of the lowest paid Judiciary employees, including Docket Clerks and Court Officers. We have asked for improvements in the alternate rate of pay, RFA stipends, and upgrades for Docket Clerks and Court Officers. We have made clear that we do not object to the Judiciary conducting yet another study of these pay issues, or with agreeing that implementation would occur upon funding by the Legislature, so long as that study is not an excuse for further inaction and delay.
Chief Justice Rieber recently met with staff in Chittenden, and stated that the Judiciary must stand in line for funding from the Legislature. Under the current system, however, our members can’t even stand in that line. We are prevented from raising economic demands above whatever is inserted in the Pay Act based on the Executive Branch negotiations because we have always bargained our contract so late.
The problem of low pay for Judiciary employees is serious, and affects our ability to deliver justice to the public. It is also a persistent product of pay inequality for an overwhelmingly female workforce. Rather than blame the Legislature, the Judiciary needs to act.
The parties have scheduled negotiations on Tuesday, July 12. Your team is committed to doing what it can to accommodate legitimate concerns raised by management. If the Judiciary meets us half-way, we can settle this matter on that day.
The Judiciary Bargaining Unit Team
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