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Governor’s Office reaches pay deal with first major union – 1% raises possible in second year if state revenues hit certain target

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Sep. 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm | No Comments »
September 15, 2012 4:15 pm

Negotiators for Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Washington Federation of State Employees have struck a tentative two-year pay deal that ends the 3 percent pay cuts of the past two years and holds out the possibility of 1 percent pay increases in the second year. The contract, once ratified, would take effect July 1, 2013, and the small cost-of-living increase to take effect in mid-2014 is dependent on an improved economy boosting revenues to the state.

“It helps get back some of what we lost the last two years,” federation spokesman Tim Welch said by telephone this afternoon.

Leaders in the governor’s budget office did not immediately put out statements on the deal.

The union announced the partial agreement in an email alert to members. Copies of the agreement went into the mail today to about 30,000 affected members, who must ratify it by Oct. 1 if the estimated $171 million general-fund cost is to be included in the governor’s next budget proposal.

The wage agreement is the first major agreement of more than two-dozen contracts the governor’s Labor Relations Office is negotiating, and the health-care piece of the puzzle appears to be the stickier piece.

Welch said talks over health benefits for more than two-dozen state employee unions are continuing in a separate stand-alone agreement.

The agreement includes a 2.5 percent pay raise – known as a step increase – for 16,893 general-government workers who have been at the top pay step for their job classification for at least six years. The state has 12 steps – A through L.

The 1 percent cost-of-living increase would be the first since 2008. None were included contracts for 2009-11 or 2011-13, although step pay increases of 2.5 percent were included in those. But for the COLA to take effect, the state’s revenues expected in fiscal year 2015 must exceed by $200 million whatever the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council puts in its preliminary forecast this coming Thursday.

The agreement also has what the union is calling a “me too” clause giving higher adjustments if wage agreements for other unions are richer. The deal also has provisions on personal leave days, granting them to institutional workers for the first time, and compensatory time.

As I reported here, the federation’s leaders had held out the possibility of working without a contract – in which case the 3 percent reductions in pay and hours worked for most general-government employees would have ended in July 2013.

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