March 22, 2016
For Immediate Release
March 22, 2016
Contact: Doug Gibson
After Shumlin Administration negotiators showed little interest last week in working with three Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) Bargaining Teams to try and reach new agreements (based on recommendations in a fact-finder’s report), the VSEA Teams were left with no option but to take the contract to the next step in the process; the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB).
“If you look closely at the last best offers each side submitted to the VLRB, you will see that we were really not that far apart on the most important issue, which is wages,” said VSEA President Dave Bellini. “Wages and the implementation of a binding grievance arbitration process were the only real sticking points. To resolve these issues and a few others, both sides agreed to this fact finder, and he delivered a report, which VSEA members thought was fair. We asked the State to sit down and try to reach agreement, working with the fact finder’s report, but they decided to play politics for reasons no one was able to explain to VSEA negotiators and Teams. It felt mean-spirited.”
Bellini added that VSEA Bargaining Teams have been negotiating with the Shumlin Administration in good faith since August 2015, and that state employees wanted lawmakers to have enough time to act and budget accordingly if agreements were reached, but the State’s reluctance to reach a deal(s) has now, unfortunately, led everyone to the VLRB—and forced lawmakers to wait to act on this issue while trying to wrap up an already difficult session.
“No one on VSEA’s side of the table wanted to be in front of the VLRB at this late stage of the negotiating process, and, honestly, we don’t need to be here, which is what’s so infuriating to a lot of VSEA members,” explained Bellini. “There was a fair deal to be made here, but the State chose to fight, rather than negotiate.”
Bellini also clarified that the State’s contention that employee steps equate to a 1.7% pay increase in the first year of the contract is a false statement. The fact finder found that the step increase is only 1% in year one.
Note: Two press outlets erroneously reported/tweeted this morning that VSEA Teams’ last best offers were 4%/4% for NMU and 3%/3% for Supervisory and Corrections. This is incorrect and has been corrected. All Teams’ last best offers were the fact finder’s recommended 2% and 2.25%.
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