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Teamsters 117 ratifies ahead of today’s deadline; top 4 state labor contracts are done

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Oct. 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm with No Comments »
January 28, 2013 6:29 pm

About 5,690 Washington state employees belonging to Teamsters Local 117 voted late Sunday night to ratify a new two-year labor contract. The vote was nearly two-to-one in favor, according to the union, which represents employees at the state Department of Corrections.

The agreement comes as talks on a health-care agreement affecting 26 different bargaining units are still stuck, though technically an impasse has not been called between the union and Gov. Chris Gregoire’s bargaining team.

Terms of the Teamsters deal are similar to one ratified Friday by the Washington Federation of State Employees. As we previously reported, the federation deal affecting about 30,000 general-government agency employees includes an end to 3 percent pay cuts in June 2013, a new pay step for some workers, and a possible 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment in the second year.

The Washington Public Employees Association also ratified a similar deal with more than a 90 percent approval rate. The smaller Professional and Technical Employees Local 17 also ratified an agreement this afternoon.

Several other contracts affecting university and community college bargaining teams have been ratified, according to Gregoire’s labor team.

The Teamsters, Federation and WPEA ratifications – along with one reported by the Gregoire’s negotiators for Service Employees International Union 1199 Northwest – means that the Big Four unions have settled pay contracts ahead of today’s Oct. 1 deadline.

The deadline is for getting the cost of new labor agreements into the governor’s budget proposal for 2013-15. A spokesman for the governor’s Office of Financial Management indicated that it could get notice of ratified contracts as late as midnight tonight – and still put the costs in the budget.

So the agency’s leaders were declining to comment until Tuesday.

Costs for the labor agreements are about $238 million for the state’s general fund. That includes about $171 million for reversing the 3 percent reductions in pay and hours worked for most state employees. Another $38 million covers the additional step in pay for more than 19,000 workers who have topped out in their pay class and potentially $30 million for the COLA if state revenues grow enough to trigger the raises.

A four-year budget outlook document prepared by the governor’s Office of Financial management – linked here – shows potentially $292 million more if the Legislature agrees to keep funding the cost-of-living raises for K-12 and community college teachers and staffers, which Initiative 732 put into law in 2000.

Other costs for public sector workers are going up, but not because of contracts.

About $166 million in costs are going up due to a lapsing of temporary pay cuts that the Legislature built into the budgets for K-12 schools [not all of those cuts led to actual reductions in pay].

OFM is penciling in another $366 million step-up for pensions. But that sum reflects targets set by the state actuary to keep the state’s underfunded plans on a path toward full funding – and it is not related to bargaining. And lawmakers of both parties have agreed the state should stay on that path.

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