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Public sector agreements.

Public sector agreements

More than 25,000 employees of various agencies in the State of Oregon were covered by new contracts that incorporated the results of a 1987 legislated mandate to eliminate inequities in the pay classification system. Of the 17,000 workers in the largest bargaining unit, 85 percent will receive pay increases on April 1, 1990, a result of the reclassification study. Most of the employees will receive at least a 5-percent increase, and they also will benefit from moving into pay grades with higher maximum levels. Pay rates for 7 percent of the employees will be reduced on the same date, but instead of receiving an actual cut in pay, these employees will be limited to cost-of-living lump-sum payments in each of the four succeeding years. Also, for a 3-year period, they will be given preferential promotion rights.

The 2-year accord, negotiated by the Oregon Public Employees Union (Local 503 of the Service Employees) also provides for a 3-percent pay raise effective immediately and a 4.5-percent increase effective January 1, 1991.

A major issue in the talks was the rising cost of health insurance. The final terms call for the State to increase its financing of benefits for full-time employees by 17 percent on November 1, 1989, to an average of $238 a month per worker and to an average of $261 a month a year later. Employees will now have the option to shift into insurance plans having premium costs fully met by the State obligation. Other changes include a cut in health benefits for part-time employees and termination of dental benefits.

Also in Oregon, the State, County and Municipal Employees broke with a tradition of 2-year agreements by agreeing to a 3-year contract for 5,700 employees involved in penal and medical activities. Union officials said the longer contract time will enable them to focus more attention on specific matters, such as job safety and work scheduling.

In another deviation from past practice, the contract calls for a July 1, 1991, wage increase equal to the average of increases for workers in 20 local government units in Oregon and Washington and State workers in Washington, California, Nevada, and Montana. The increase is subject to approval by the State legislature.

Set wage increases are 3 percent effective immediately and 4.5 percent effective January 1, 1991. Under the legislated pay appraisal, 80 percent of the employees will also receive average increases of about 4.75 percent in July 1990.

According to the union, the State agreed to increase its financing of health insurance by 16 percent in the first year, to an average of $234 per worker per month, and to $225 in the second year. In the final year, the State will finance whatever amount is necessary to maintain existing benefits.

Health care cost containment was a major issue in negotiations between the State of New Hampshire and the State Employees Association for 9,000 workers. An independent factfinder had earlier recommended that any possible rise in the State's financing of health insurance in excess of 20 percent during the second contract year be assumed by employees. Instead, the 2-year contract calls for reopening bargaining on the issue if a rise exceeds 20 percent.

The contract, succeeding one that expired on June 30, did not provide for an immediate pay increase. Instead, employees will receive 5-percent increases on December 28, 1989, and October 5, 1990.

The State of New Jersey settled with two unions for 19,000 employees; the Communications Workers refused to accept similar terms for its 40,000 workers, arguing that the wage increases were inadequate. The union also contended that the State had, in recent years, followed a strategy of first settling with the smaller unions to set a pattern of less costly settlements with all of the unions. Under State law, the bargaining stalemate was moved into a factfinding stage.

The two unions that settled were the State, County and Municipal Employees, representing 10,000 employees at 18 hospitals and rehabilitation centers, and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, representing 9,000 mechanics, maintenance and security personnel, and inspectors.

The 3-year agreements were effective July 1, 1989. They provided for similar terms, including a 4-percent wage increase on January 13, 1990, a 4.5-percent increase in October 1990, and a 5.5-percent increase in July 1991. These increases are in addition to existing contract provisions calling for annual increases of 3.6 percent to 5 percent (varying by performance) until employees attain 10 years of service. Prior to the settlements, reported average annual pay was $15,000 for employees represented by the State, County and Municipal Employees, $21,000 for those represented by the Professional and Technical Engineers, and $25,000 for those represented by the Communications Workers.

The two settlements raised the $460 annual clothing allowance to $480 in July 1990 and to $500 in July 1991, and provided for a $200 payment in December 1991 to employees who worked the second and third shifts during the preceding 12 months.

In Pennsylvania, an arbitration panel awarded 3,600 State corrections officers and 400 psychiatric security aides six wage increases totaling about 16 percent over the 3-year contract period. According to a State government official, the increases, combined with annual length-of-service increases, will bring average annual pay to $28,911, from $22,672. The accord also eliminated the lower pay rate range that applied to the security aides. In the final contract year, the range will be $19,299 to $36,888 for all employees.

The parties adopted a "combined" leave plan, giving employees a set number of days--varying by seniority--each year, to be used for vacations, personal days off, or illness up to 5 days' duration. Up to 45 days of the leave can be carried over from year to year. Previously, the three types of time off accured separately, and personal days could not be carried over. Illnesses lasting longer than 5 days will be covered by separate long-term leave, and employees with at least 20 years of service will be partly compensated at retirement for unused "combined" and long-term leave.

In New Jersey, the Turnpike Authority proposed that new employees begin paying part of health insurance premium costs. The final settlement with the Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers did not include the two-tier approach, but the parties did agree to reopen negotiations after January 1991 if the authority's health insurance costs exceed $9.5 million during the preceding 18 months.

The 3-year accord calls for wage increases of 6 percent effective immediately and 5 percent in July of 1990 and 1991. After the final increase, hourly wage ranges will include $9.91-$16.75 for toll collectors and $10.67-$18.53 for maintenance workers. Annual salaries will range from $17,473-$32,208 for office and clerical employees and from $20,739-$44,935 for technical employees.

The State of Rhode Island and 26 locals of the State, County and Municipal Employees negotiated a 3-year contract calling for an immediate 4.4-percent wage increase, a 4.4-percent increase on July 1, 1990, and a 1-percent increase on January 1, 1991. Other terms include 5-cent-an-hour increases in night shift differentials in the second and third years and a requirement that employees receive second opinions prior to 15 categories of surgery.

The accord covers 7,700 workers in numerous occupations in a number of State agencies.
COPYRIGHT 1989 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Developments in Industrial Relations
Author:Ruben, George
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Oct 1, 1989
Words:1241
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