Oregon unions sign tentative pacts for 22,000 state workers


The State of Oregon reached agreement July 18 and 19 with its two largest union groups, signing tentative agreements that, when ratified, will cover 22,000 state workers.

The new agreements provide a 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise Dec. 1, 2013, and 2 percent Dec. 1, 2014. They also end a freeze in step pay increases, and contain no further furlough days — two concessions that workers agreed to two years ago when the state was in fiscal crisis.

State negotiators dropped proposals to make employees pay 100 percent of health insurance premium increases over 5 percent. In the new agreements, workers would continue to pay 5 percent of health insurance premiums. And starting 2015, employees who choose the least expensive health plan available to them will see their share of the premium decrease to 3 percent.

A unit of 19,000 workers represented by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503 was the first to reach agreement — six days after Local 503 gave a 10-day strike notice. Oregon-AFSCME (American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees) concluded a deal on nearly-identical terms the following day, which will cover another 3,000 workers. One difference: In the AFSCME contract, if health insurance premiums increase less than forecasted, workers would get their cost-of-living raises early — one month early for every 1.6 percentage points less than 5 percent.

The two-year contracts are retroactive to July 1 and run through June 30, 2015.

The big state worker agreement is sometimes called the DAS contract, because it’s negotiated by the Department of Administrative Services on behalf of nearly all state agencies. Together with side agreements, the DAS contracts run up to 160 pages, and spell out pay, benefits, work rules, and disciplinary procedures.

SEIU this year made several unusual “common good” proposals, including a call for investigation into how the LIBOR bank fraud scandal may have hurt public worker pension and other state funds. But when bargaining reached formal “impasse,” those proposals were declared “permissive” subjects of bargaining, meaning the state, by law, didn’t have to consider them.

Ratification votes are expected to take place in the coming weeks and conclude by mid-August. The SEIU vote will take place statewide, by mail ballot. The AFSCME ratification vote takes place agency by agency, and some agencies, like DEQ and the Department of State Lands, are still in “local table” negotiations that could go to the second week of August.

Still being negotiated are state contracts covering 3,000 workers in two AFSCME-represented units in the Department of Corrections, and SEIU-represented units covering 20,000 state-paid in-home care providers and 4,000 workers in the Oregon University System (OUS). The OUS negotiations are particularly contentious this year: State negotiators are demanding concessions in cherished union contract provisions like seniority rights during layoffs, overtime pay after eight hours, and safeguards against privatization. On July 29, SEIU began circulating a member petition in support of strike authorization at OUS.


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