State workers to get 2 percent annual raises under new labor contracts

MONTPELIER – The state employees union and the Shumlin administration have struck a tentative deal on new, two-year contracts that include 2-percent raises each year, the administration announced Friday afternoon.

The deal also includes the restoration of a 3-percent pay cut that Vermont State Employees Association members took for fiscal years 2011 and 2012, according to the administration. The pay cut will be restored at the end of June 2012.

In addition, previously “frozen” step movements will resume in July 2012, according to the administration.

Gov. Peter Shumlin said in a written statement that the agreement balances the need to reward Vermont's “hardworking state employees” and the need for financial prudence.

While these contracts provide a modest increase for state employees, they also reflect the fiscal constraints facing Vermont taxpayers and our responsibility to maintain fiscal discipline in the coming years,” Shumlin said.

The state employees made a few, seemingly minor, concessions. Employees in the Select Care health plan will pay an additional $5 co-pay for office visits, from $15 to $20 dollars, effective January 2013, according to the news release. And Columbus Day will no longer be observed as a state holiday, effective July 1, 2013.

VSEA President John Reese touted the agreement as a good deal for workers.

Certainly, VSEA members belonging to the Units that will soon vote on this tentative contract will welcome a return of the three-percent wage cut they graciously surrendered to help Vermont weather our state’s economic storm," Reese said in a written statement. "I also believe they’ll be very receptive to a small wage increase in the next two years, as the cost of living is rising just as fast for state employees as it is for all working Vermonters.”

The contracts are subject to ratification by the VSEA membership.

The two sides entered negotiations amid a heated labor dispute between the Shumlin administration and state workers over whether double pay was warranted for workers displaced by the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene.

But Reese said the tone of the negotiations was positive.

The fact that, for the first time in decades, VSEA bargaining units were able to reach a tentative agreement without having to resort to the use of a mediator or fact-finder should speak volumes about the tone of these negotiations versus previous bargaining sessions with the State,” said Reese.

The labor contracts cover three bargaining units: Corrections, Supervisory and Non-Management Units.