Judiciary, VSEA reach agreement

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Judiciary and the Vermont State Employees Association have reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract after nearly a year of tense negotiations.

The two sides announced the deal Wednesday, which still requires ratification by the VSEA’s judiciary bargaining unit. The two sides agreed not to release details on the proposed agreement until the 170-member bargaining unit backs it.irmy8hhd

The agreement, reached after about 11 months of negotiations, comes on the heels of a fact-finder’s report and even an attempt at mediation by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The Maine-based fact-finder, Michael Ryan, recommended that docket clerks and court officers receive an immediate wage review by a third party. The report also recommended the adoption of several of VSEA’s proposed employee reclassification processes while rejecting a request from the court administrator to not make employees cost-of-living-increases retroactive to July 2016 was also rejected.

“VSEA members worked very hard to ensure our collective voices were heard over a very long and tough bargaining process,” VSEA Judiciary Unit Chair Margaret Crowley said in a statement released by the union. “The agreement reached (Tuesday) will help us support ourselves and our families and will also help ensure that the Judiciary community is strong and that there is a culture of mutual respect. We are excited to now take this tentative agreement to the full Judiciary membership for a ratification vote.”

Court Administrator Patricia Gabel released her own statement announcing the agreement.

“We are very pleased that this protracted negotiation has been resolved in a fiscally prudent manner that is mutually acceptable to both parties and generally consistent with the recommendations of the neutral fact-finder,” Gabel said. “The parties were ultimately able to achieve this result with direct face-to-face bargaining rather than through the shuttle diplomacy of a mediator, and this bodes well for the ability of the Judiciary to move forward together to accomplish the essential work of providing justice to Vermont’s residents.”

With the tentative agreement in place, the two sides will avoid a final step in the bargaining process when disagreements continue. Had the impasse continued, the two sides would have been required to report their final best offers to the Vermont Labor Relations Board.

VSEA spokesman Doug Gibson said members of the bargaining unit must return their ballots to the VSEA by Dec. 14. He said the union will be able to determine whether members approved the deal by the end of that day.

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