Shay Totten On VSEA/State Cost-Savings Battle

"For sure, the only people making money are the lawyers. For example, private option attorney Michael Marks, the administration’s chief labor negotiator, is earning $200 an hour, up from his 2007 rate of $170 an hour. Despite the hourly boost, Marks’ contract is capped at $120,000.

He’ll just have to screw over state workers in less time. Now that’s productivity."

Labor Pains — Talk about a chill in the air: The Douglas administration and the Vermont State Employees Association remain at loggerheads about how to trim $7.4 million in payroll costs.

Last week, the union offered to sacrifice a mix of furlough days, lost holidays and its wellness program to save money. This week, the Douglas team countered with a mix of furloughs and holiday takebacks, minus the pay cuts it had previously sought. The catch? The union must agree to cut $38 million from the payroll by FY 2012.

If the union balks, Deputy Administration Secretary Tom Pelham says they may have no choice but to lay off 200 to 300 workers to realize the savings.

“We need to find structural, sustainable savings, and furloughs aren’t enough,” said Pelham.

The union believes Douglas’ counter offer is evidence they just want to cut more jobs. In the past two years, the state has trimmed nearly 650 workers from its payroll.

“They have a choice to accept the real money we have put on the table or lay people off,” said Jes Kraus, VSEA’s executive director. “It’s like we put $7.4 million on the table and they said: You gave us hundreds; we wanted it in twenties.”

Last week, the legislative Joint Fiscal Committee told the Douglas administration to seek short-term savings for FY 2010, and leave long-term savings for bargaining talks. The two sides are now embroiled in contract talks for FY 2011 and 2012.

For sure, the only people making money are the lawyers. For example, private option attorney Michael Marks, the administration’s chief labor negotiator, is earning $200 an hour, up from his 2007 rate of $170 an hour. Despite the hourly boost, Marks’ contract is capped at $120,000.

He’ll just have to screw over state workers in less time. Now that’s productivity.