Vermont state labor contract talks at impasse

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Six-months of negotiations have failed to find an agreement on a new labor contract for state employees. Now state employees and the Scott administration are heading to the Vermont Labor Relations Board to settle the latest contract dispute.

"I think people would've preferred to get a deal at the bargaining table. Sometimes the parties are too far apart for that to happen," said Vt. Human Resources Commissioner Beth Fastiggi.

The Scott administration and the Vermont State Employees Association started negotiating on the two year contract in August. When that failed, they turned to a mediator. And then agreed on an independent fact finder. None of it has worked. "We want to make sure that the growth rate in state government doesn't exceed Vermonters' ability to pay," Fastiggi said.

She says Gov. Scott wants to keep spending increases at or below 2.3 percent -- that's what he says is the private sector wage growth. She says the administration can't accept what's in the fact finder's report. "It does provide for more than we believe Vermonters can afford to pay," she said.

The union, meanwhile, says the report reflects an independent assessment and should be followed. "It's a neutral analysis of all of the factors of all of the evidence presented by both sides," said the VSEA's Steve Howard. He says the state's richest residents have seen their wealth increase and should chip in more to help compensate state employees.
"Even those people who don't get a paycheck, but have a trust fund, who get massive income from Wall Street from stocks -- unearned income should be factored in to that."

The 20 say cooling-off period after the fact finder's report came out expires Wednesday. That's the deadline for both sides to deliver their best offer to the Labor Relations Board. And after that the public should learn what each side is asking. Neither side would comment on that yet.

This is the second negotiation in a row to end up before the labor board. The union and former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin also failed to reach a deal in 2016.