The Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) recently filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) against the Judiciary Branch for refusing a request by frontline workers to move the date to begin bargaining a successor agreement to early August 2015. The date change is important because frontline workers say the Judiciary’s usual late winter start (anywhere from December to February) hamstrings them in bargaining because management has already submitted its yearly funding request to lawmakers. All other VSEA Bargaining Teams will begin bargaining in early August.
In its ULP, VSEA General Counsel Tim Belcher writes, “Because prior [Judiciary] negotiations have always commenced after the Court Administrator has already submitted the Judiciary Department’s funding requests to the General Assembly, the VSEA has never been able to engage in meaningful collective bargaining over wages and other financial terms and conditions of employment, and has instead been forced to accept whatever terms are negotiated into the collective bargaining agreements covering employees of the executive branch of government.”
As justification for the workers’ right to request a date switch, the ULP cites language contained in the Judicial Employees Labor Relations Act, which reads:
3 VSA §1036 (c)
The Act further provides as follows:
(e) An agreement shall terminate at the expiration of its specified term. Upon request of either party, negotiations for a new agreement to take effect upon the expiration of the preceding agreement shall be commenced at any time during the year preceding the expiration date of the agreement. Negotiation may be commenced at any time before that time with the consent of both parties.
VSEA’s ULP concludes:
“By refusing to commence negotiations during the year preceding expiration of the current agreement at the time requested by the union, and by insisting that negotiations commence after the Court Administrator has already submitted requests for funds to the General Assembly to be included in the budget to take effect July 1, 2016, the Respondent Judiciary Department has violated its duty to bargain upon request “at any time during the year preceding the expiration date of the agreement;” failed to bargain in good faith; and thereby interfered, restrained, and coerced employees in the exercise of rights protected by 3 VSA §1012, all in violation of 3 VSA §§1026(1) and (5), as well as 3 VSEA § 1036(e).
“To be on equal footing, our Judiciary workers deserve to be at the table right from the start in August, which is why VSEA is filing this ULP on their behalf,” said VSEA President Shelley Martin. “We hope our action will cause the Court Administrator to have to come to the table in early August.”
VSEA is now waiting on a hearing date at the Vermont Labor Relations Board.