“After many discussions and a lot of back-and-forth, we were able to reach agreement on acceptable guidelines for how the program will work, including a sunset date of June 30, 2012," explained NMU Chair Terry Lefebvre.
Vermont State Employees Association’s Non-Management Unit Bargaining Team Reaches Agreement With State On One-Year Voluntary Furlough Program
Terry Lefebvre, chairperson of the Vermont State Employees’ Association’s (VSEA) Non-Management Unit (NMU) bargaining team, announced today that the union’s largest bargaining unit has reached agreement with the Shumlin Administration on a one-year “voluntary furlough” program. Prior to the NMU agreement, VSEA members belonging to the union’s Corrections, Supervisory, and Defender General Units declined discussions with the State about their own voluntary furlough programs.
Shortly after taking office in January, Gov. Shumlin announced that he would be asking state employees to achieve an additional $12 million in savings to help Vermont address a projected fiscal year 2012 budget deficit of $176 million. One of Shumlin’s money-saving ideas, in addition to state employees increasing their retirement contributions and redesigning their health care plan, was for employees to agree to voluntary furloughs.
“Enough NMU members expressed interest in the ‘voluntary’ furlough concept for our team to pursue the idea with the State,” explained Lefebvre. “After many discussions and a lot of back-and-forth, we were able to reach agreement on acceptable guidelines for how the program will work, including a sunset date of June 30, 2012. But because this program will be voluntary, the NMU team can’t make promises about how much money will end up being saved. Personally, I commend my NMU colleagues and I’m proud of them for agreeing to voluntarily help Vermont confront its ongoing economic problems.” Lefebvre added that some members told NMU bargaining team members that a voluntary furlough program might allow them to take some much-needed time off; a luxury some indicated has been unavailable to them in the past few years due to all the cuts to services and the workforce.
Some of the “voluntary” furlough plans details agreed to by the parties include:
· Two enrollments periods, one in mid-June 2011 and one in November 2011;
· Management has the prerogative to deny employee request(s) for voluntary leave;
· Participating employees must sign up for a minimum of 40 hours of furlough time over the course of the year; and
· Participating employees will not be required to perform 40 hours of work during a furlough period.
The VSEA is Vermont’s second largest union, representing more than 7,000 state and other public sector workers.
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