April Bargaining Update

Scott's picture

As expected, April is off to a slow start for bargaining. And don't expect much more to heppen this month. There's lots of work going on around the next budget, but until we get the final May forecast, no one is really going to be in any position to make decisions.

The short list of topics that have been discussed include:

  • Salary selective presentations
    This is just an exercise. We can't even guarantee step increases, let alone jobs. Don't expect anyone to get more money, regardless of how much it may be deserved.
  • Greater transparency in contracts awarded to non-state operated companies.
    With the clear-as-rock contracts and shenanigans that we have today, any transparency would be an improvement. We should never have contracts like were "negotiated" for DHS's new MMIS system from EDS; or the Accenture boondoggle known as the State Data Center.
  • Employee vacation accrual at the same rate as managers.
    (DAS) Management vacation accrual is covered by DAS Statewide Policy 60.000.05. The numbers they get are:
    Management Vacation Leave Accrual
    Months Worked Accrual Rate
    1-60 (5 years) 10 hours
    61-120 (10 years) 11.34 hours
    121-180 (15 years) 13.34 hours
    181-240 (20 years) 15.34 hours
    241-300 (25 years) 17.34 hours
    301+ (25+ years) 19.34 hours

  • Provide feedback on job performance to workers in trial service.
    This would be nice. Releasing someone from trial service isn't grievable under the current contract. Unfortunately, management will want to neuter this option if it makes it in at all. You can't have accountability after all. At least one agency already has monthly performance reports for trial service. However, management has made it clear that this is not required. And for the few people that use it, it is conveniently forgotten about if they deicde to release someone from trial service.

That's all the current bargaining results. There are multiple activities being planned. The next major one is a Worksite "Day of Action" coming up on April 27th, 2009.

Central Bargaining is set to resume on Apriil 20th, 2009.

Scott's picture

Re: April Bargaining Update

The latest official update follows. It doesn't add anything significant.

Our campaign to win a fair contract continues to move slowly at the
bargaining table and swiftly at the Capitol and in our worksites.

The Bargaining Table: When we met this week, the State made no changes to
its major proposals (26 furlough days, including 15 unpaid holidays;
complete step freeze; revocation of tenth step; and no cost of living
increases). We spent most of the day on items like the State's proposal to
make trial service longer for certain job classifications. We also
explained -- again -- the importance of our proposals to put tighter limits on the
State's ability to contract out services we provide.

The Capitol: In anticipation of a $4.4 billion shortfall for the next
biennium, the Legislature released a "30% cuts" list that shows where
agencies will cut spending if the May 15 revenue forecast is as bad as
economists predict. That list includes elimination of more than 500
positions at OYA; 145 at Justice; 124 in Forestry; 202 in Administrative
Services; and 174 at Blue Mountain Recovery Center and the Eastern Oregon
Training Center, just for some examples. Each potential position cut means
a loss of needed public services as well as another unemployed Oregonian.

The 30% cut list is a "worst case scenario" that assumes the entire budget
hole is filled by slashing services. We are urging the legislature to tap
federal stimulus dollars and state reserve funds, and to pass responsible
tax reform that increases revenue for state services by asking corporations
and affluent Oregonians to pay more. We encourage you to come to
legislative hearings that will be held in six communities between April 20
and May 1 to let legislators know what the proposed cuts would mean for our
families and our communities. For dates, times, and places, visit www.seiu503.org.

Our Worksites: At work, we need to build pressure on management to fight
the State's efforts to force us to shoulder a disproportionate share of the
sacrifice needed to resolve the state's budget crisis. In worksites across
Oregon, workers will participate in a "Day of Action" on Monday, April
27 -- purpling up, taking unity breaks, and contacting Scott Harra
(503.373.0914), the Director of DAS, who oversees the State's bargaining

Our Health Insurance: We negotiate over what the State pays for our health
insurance, but specifics like benefit levels and carrier choice are not part
of the bargaining process. They are set by PEBB, the Public Employees'
Benefit Board. SEIU has two (out of eight) representatives on the Board,
which is currently moving toward self-insurance in an effort to reduce the
rate at which health care costs increase. If PEBB self-insures, it will not
have to pay insurers extra to assume the risk that claims might exceed
expectations. PEBB is also evaluating renewal offers from three different
insurance carriers in an effort to manage costs. Our SEIU representatives
are working to protect our benefit levels and to control costs in order to
protect health care now and in the future. They recognize that cost
containment and continuity of providers are both important. At the next PEBB
meeting on April 21, insurance company bids will be reviewed. We will keep
you posted.

Scott's picture

Re: April Bargaining Update

Still not a bargaining issue, but the word is out that PEBB is looking to become self-insured starting in 2010. This comes on the heels of the horrible pricing provided by our current carriers. We budgeted for a 10% increase, and they're talking about a minimum of 20%.

Like the overall state budget, we could completely drain all of our reserves now, to try and continue with the seemingly untenable health insurance programs we currently have. Or they can look to take over those functions themselves to save money and keep some sort of reserve.

Scott's picture

Re: April Bargaining Update

They went back to the bargaining table on Monday, 20-Apr-2009. Still no word on what has transpired. The one organizer I had contact with also had not heard anything as of Tuesday afternoon. Updates if/when I get them.

If you hear something, or know first hand, feel free to share the information with everyone.

Scott's picture

Re: April Bargaining Update

Another day with no word. Hopefully something will be out soon. Let's hope that there is some progress on non-monetary matters. With the ever-expanding budget deficit, there's no way anything to do with money is going to be discussed in any sort of substantial terms.

Scott's picture

Re: April Bargaining Update

Finally, the update:

At DAS bargaining this week, we spent most of our time discussing the issue of furlough days.  We re-affirmed our willingness to accept some mandatory unpaid time off, but we laid out seven principles that we think are key to reaching an agreement on this subject.

The number of furlough days proposed by the State is unacceptably high.  They have proposed 26 (though they admit that two of those days cannot be implemented, since they fall within the current biennium).  We have proposed the equivalent of eight days (64 hours) over two years.

Furlough days should not fall on holidays.  Getting paid for holidays is a core union principle, fought for by working people over many decades.  It is not acceptable to be punished for spending Christmas or Thanksgiving with your family by getting a short check.

Managers must take as much unpaid time off as represented workers.  We are prepared to shoulder our share of sacrifice—but only if management does its part as well.

Workers must have a voice in determining whether furloughs are implemented through office closures or by allowing workers to schedule their own unpaid time off.  Since agencies are not cut with cookie-cutters, we think that these decisions should be made by labor-management committees in each agency.  What works best at the State Hospital might be different from what works at the State Library!

Mandatory unpaid time off should be structured in hours rather than days, since that will provide more flexibility.

Any furlough program must include provisions to provide relief for our lowest-paid members, for whom mandatory unpaid time off imposes a special hardship.

Management must not use temporary, limited duration, or contract employees to do work that accumulates as a result of their furlough plan.

Management had no substantive response to our proposal, though they did say they were working on some new “concepts” related to furloughs and that they expect to have a modified proposal for us when we meet again in May.  With unemployment in Oregon at 12.1% (second highest in the nation) and the state budget in complete crisis, we clearly have our work cut out for us.

Away from the bargaining table, this week the PEBB Board followed up on its decision to move to self-insured medical coverage with a decision to shift the administration of the current Regence plan to Providence Health Plan, effective 1/1/10.  This decision, from which SEIU’s two representatives to the PEBB Board dissented, was based on a desire to slow cost increases and the sense of the Board’s majority that Providence is more aligned with the goals of the PEBB vision.  Under Providence, the plan design will completely mirror the Regence plan design.  We are very pleased that we succeeded in avoiding all of the proposals under discussion that would have cut benefits or altered plan design.  SEIU representatives raised concerns that the change to Providence might cause disruption for people whose current providers are not part of the Providence network, but the Board majority was persuaded by analysis showing that fewer than 4% of people covered by PEBB would see any provider disruption and by Providence’s commitments to develop continuation of care arrangements for affected individuals under active care.  SEIU will continue to work to protect state employees’ health insurance and to work for health care reform that makes health care more affordable and accessible for everyone.  We will also continue to support the ongoing efforts of Providence employees to organize their own union.

Meanwhile, the most important work ahead of us is the Ways and Means Committee Budget Hearings, at which we have an opportunity to educate legislators on the State’s budget-writing committee about how their proposed cuts would devastate our communities.  Proposed cuts would include layoffs of up to 6000-7000 DAS and OUS employees, as well as deep cuts in important programs like child support enforcement, youth corrections, higher education, home care, and employment related daycare.  For a list of upcoming budget hearings, check our website at [the SEIU 503 web site].

Please flag the date of April 27 for worksite actions!  We’ll be doing unity breaks, purple-up days, and other activities to communicate our anger about the State’s behavior in bargaining to all of our supervisors, and in particular, to Scott Harra, Director of DAS, who oversees the State’s negotiating team. In addition, May 14 will be an important action day, and please hold the date of June 7, for a statewide rally in Portland. Details to follow!


Scott's picture

Re: April Bargaining Update

I can't wait to see what the new "concepts" from management are for furlough. The last time they explored something new, we got 26 days and all of the other fun stuff they proposed. Would anyone like to bet that they completely ignore what was presented this week and come at us from out of left field with some new, even worse, scheme?