State workers union, Scott administration negotiations go to labor board

MONTPELIER — Contract talks between the state workers union and the Scott administration have stalled over pay increases and the negotiations now go to the Vermont Labor Relations Board — the final stage of the impasse process.

Each side must submit a "last best offer" by Feb. 28, according to a statement from the Vermont State Employees Association, which represents non-management, corrections and supervisory unit bargaining teams. The Vermont Labor Relations Board then has 30 days to issue a decision.

Negotiations have been ongoing since last summer. The two sides reached an impasse earlier this year and hired a fact finder to issue findings and recommendations.

The VSEA was prepared to accept the report. "However, the Scott administration showed no interest in reaching a fair, reasonable contract settlement," the union said in an email to members. "Instead, it offered what some team members labeled `ridiculous' proposals."

Steve Howard, director of the union, was not immediately available for comment.

Adam Greshin, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Finance and Management, said the governor's office rejected the fact finder's report. The Scott administration wants to keep pay increases in line with target growth for the budget, which has been set at average wage growth rates.

Greshin said the administration wants to cap total growth for state workers cost of living increases, step increases and benefits at 2.3 percent. Even if the administration offered no COLA increase, the step increases automatically boost pay for 60 percent of workers by 1.9 percent, he said.

"The range and benefit increases that we give to labor should be in line with the growth in the rest of our budget that is what we hope to achieve," Greshin said in an interview.

The union said in a statement that it has refused to accept the governor's demands for "low pay raises, extreme overtime compensation concessions, health plan deductible and co-pay increases."

The current contract, which expires in June, must be approved by the Legislature.

The Vermont Labor Relations Board was the final arbiter in the last negotiations between the executive branch, under then-Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, and workers in 2016.

There are 8,374 state workers, according to a January 2018 Vermont Department of Human Resources report. Average pay for classified workers is $62,195. Average total compensation, including health care and retirement, is $93,340. Employees pay 20 percent of health care premiums.


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