MacIver News Service | December 6, 2010[Madison, Wisconsin] As a part of their commitment to transparency in labor negotiations, the MacIver Institute has posted the tentative agreement for yet another government employee union online.
The Wisconsin Professional Employee Council, AFT-Wisconsin Local 4848, commonly referred to as WPEC, is the fiscal and staff services bargaining unit of the State of Wisconsin. The local represents approximately 5,000 classified state who work in almost every state agency and University of Wisconsin System campus throughout the state.
The MacIver Institute has now posted tentative agreements that cover approximately 27,000 of the nearly 40,000 unionized state government employees.
“This tentative agreement includes a large number of language changes. Some of the changes are largely administrative, but others are more meaningful, such as improved transfer, lay-off and relocation language, and sabbatical options,” wrote WPEC Bargaining Team Chair Gail Maly and WPEC President Greg Georg in a cover letter mailed to union members, which was sent along with a summary of the tentative contract.
An initial review of the tentative agreement reveals the following:
- More than 95 percent of the employees represented by the WPEC will see health insurance premium increases in 2011 of only $5 per month for individual plans and $11 per month for family plan from what they were paying in 2009. There is also an understanding, memorialized in these documents that should any other local agree to a reduced health insurance premium. it will also be given to WPEC. A similar letter has been submitted to all locals with collective bargaining agreements concerning the cost of health insurance premiums.
- The agreement changes language from the previous contract to add surviving insured dependents to the list of people able to use sick leave conversion credits for monthly health insurance premiums. For example, it allows surviving children to use the credits whether or not there is a surviving spouse.
- The president of the union is granted 120 extra hours with out loss of pay to conduct union business. The previous contract granted 600 hours, this new contract, 720. (That’s 18 weeks).
- Some agencies and campuses block job hunting web sites. The new contract allows union employees to access those sites from work or to take the time necessary to access them from a job center.
- This language allows a laid off employee to refuse one offer of restoration without giving up their restoration rights. Currently an employee who refuses an offer of restoration loses all of their restoration rights immediately.
- This agreement removes the restriction that a transfer can only take place within the same agency or campus.
- A change is included that prevents the state from requiring an employee who fails his probationary period to pay back personal holiday hours used in the previous year. Personal holiday hours are normally lost if they are not used by the end of the year.
In a minority report, included with the WPEC packet, Bargaining Support Committee members Barbara Smith and John Verberkmoes wrote to their fellow union members and encouraged a no vote.
They also brought up the threat of a strike by state government employees if future negotiations get tough.
“What is ahead in the next four years? We can act to stop furloughs and preserve our sick leave conversion, pensions, and other hard-won benefits. WSEU held a successful strike in July 1977. Pickets, rallies, slowdowns, sick outs, and other job actions are all possibilities to protect our jobs and quality public services,” the pair wrote.
The agreements with Wisconsin’s government employee unions were negotiated by the Doyle Administration and 19 collective bargaining units. They must be ratified by the Joint Committee on Employment Relations and the legislature. In most cases, the agreements between the State and the government employee unions undergo the ratification process with the rank and file union members before lawmakers ever see what is included.
Democrats who control the State Senate and State Assembly until the new legislature is sworn in on January 3, 2011 are planning on meeting in a nearly unprecedented lame duck session yet this month to approve the agreements.
Only one time in the 162-year history of the State of Wisconsin has a lame-duck legislature approved such agreements, when one contract was approved in November of 1974.
Several lawmakers support the call to have the state post these tentative agreements online, immediately. While the state has rebuffed those requests, the MacIver Institute continues to do so, on it’s site: www.MacIverInstitute.com.
Special and extraordinary sessions are similar in that they are called solely to consider one or more specified topics or pieces of legislation. A special session is called by the governor and an extraordinary session is initiated by the legislature.
From details that have been released regarding status of the unions’ approval process, such a session would have to occur in a three week period between December 11, 2010 and January 2, 2011.
WPEC Cover Letter