November 14, 2016
November 14, 2016
For Immediate Release
November 14, 2016
Contact: Doug Gibson
VSEA Judiciary Workers Deliver Petition To Court Administrator’s Office Asks For A Fair Process To Resolve Frontline Workers’ Pay Disputes
Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) Judiciary Unit members hand delivered a petition this morning to the Court Administrator’s Office that calls on Judiciary Branch management to negotiate a fair process to resolve workers’ pay disputes, to include a neutral hearing based on the evidence. In response, management has threatened to withhold raises that are already approved and budgeted by the Legislature. VSEA members are outraged that the Court system would use economic coercion to punish court system employees for demanding basic due process.
“As an active member of our Judiciary workers’ Bargaining Team, I know for a fact that the Legislature has budgeted the money required to award frontline classified Judiciary workers with a raise,” explains VSEA Judiciary Unit Chair Margaret Crowley. “That said, we now believe management is leveraging these pay raises against us, in an effort to get us to back off our request for a fair hearing process. We continue to believe that the establishment a fair hearing process is the best way to stop the hemorrhaging of Judiciary employees due to low pay.” Crowley adds that nearly 25% of Judiciary Docket Clerks have left in the last fiscal year; many citing low pay.
The overwhelming majority of Unit members continue to stand behind their Bargaining Team and have signed a petition in support of a fair hearing process to resolve pay grievances. In addition, hundreds of community members have added their names in support. The petition reads:
“We the undersigned Judiciary Employees, State workers, and concerned members of the public call on the Judiciary of the State of Vermont to agree to a fair process for deciding pay grievances.
Under the current process, pay disputes are heard by a committee that is dominated by management and chaired by the Human Resources Manager. No record of the evidence is kept, and the testimony is taken without the employee or the union present. The application and appeal processes include unnecessary obstacles designed to discourage or trip up employees. The final decision is made by a person who is recommended by management and selected by the Chief Justice.
For years, the Judiciary has used this skewed process to prevent employees, particularly over 100 docket clerks, from being paid for the increasingly complex and demanding work they are required to perform. Now, the Judiciary is facing a turnover crisis as almost a quarter of the Docket Clerks left the Judiciary in the last fiscal year.
We ask for simple justice: pay disputes should be decided by a neutral decision maker based on the evidence. The Vermont Judiciary says it is “philosophically opposed” to this basic due process. We ask that they return to the bargaining table and negotiate a contract that respects employees’ rights to a fair hearing.”
VSEA’s Judiciary Unit members have been in a tough contract battle with the Court Administrator since December 2015, and a Fact Finder is currently reviewing both sides’ arguments and will be issuing a decision in the coming days or weeks. One of the workers’ key issues this round of negotiations is the establishment of a fair hearing process. If the parties are unable to reach agreement based on the Fact Finders’ report, the final step in Vermont’s statutory bargaining dispute-resolution process is a hearing before the Vermont Labor Relations Board. The Judiciary has made clear that it will withhold retroactive raises, and essentially divert money that was earmarked by the Legislature, if the employees proceed to that step, including its proposal that pay disputes be decided by a neutral party based on the evidence.
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