Post-Reform Compensation Plan Ushers in New Era, New Savings

MacIver News Service | October 25, 2011

[Madison, Wisc…] The Walker Administration has unveiled a new Compensation Plan for state employees that replaces the old state contracts. The new plan cracks down on overtime abuses and curbs many work rules and add-on provisions that had previously been negotiated with the former employee unions.

Having already saved an estimated $600 million over the next two years through employee contributions to health and retirement plans, department heads will now be given the freedom to assign overtime in an efficient manner without regard to seniority, a move that will save more than $5 million in one state agency alone.

“Overtime is one of the major areas that will be affected as agencies will now have discretion in determining how overtime is assigned,” Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch wrote in a letter sent to all state employees Tuesday.State Employee Letter re Comp Plan

The new Compensation Plan gives administrative officials discretion over compensation differentials, but there is no bump in base pay or cost of living adjustments that had been commonplace with the union pacts of the past.

In the absence of a contact, a Compensation Plan governs pay and benefits for formerly union-represented state employees, as has always been the case for non-represented employees.

In 2010, state employees worked nearly 1.9 million hours of overtime for which they were typically paid at 1.5 times their regular hourly rates, according to a report released in May by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau.

The LAB found that premium overtime hours increased from 2009 to 2010, when they were approximately equivalent to 900 full-time staff positions.

Walker Administration officials stress that required staffing at the Department of Corrections and other departments will still be met, but that by not requiring department heads to assign overtime by seniority will save the DOC $5 million.

The LAB noted that until recently, protocols for assigning overtime hours were negotiated by the Office of State Employment Relations (OSER) in collective bargaining agreements with 19 bargaining units that represented approximately 38,100 state employees.

Act 10 removed the requirement that the State of Wisconsin collectively bargain changes to compensation and other work rules. Under changes contained within Act 10, pay and benefit packages are no longer governed by union contracts, with the exception of base pay increases (which are limited to the increase in the Consumer Price Index) for unions that have been certified. To date, no state union has been certified to negotiate for these pay increases.

Tuesday morning the Office of State Employee Relations submitted the Plan to the Joint Committee on Employment Relations.

Last November, representatives of the unions which at the time represented tens of thousands of state employees engaged in a hurried effort to ratify new employee contracts before a new Republican Administration and legislature were sworn into office.

The MacIver News Service obtained copies of the framework of those agreements, and the attempts to steamroll them through a lame-duck session of the legislature were scuttled when former Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston) joined Republican Senators in opposing the plan.

Largely unchanged by the Plan are items like base pay, vacation, holidays, sick leave and sick leave conversion credits.

Previously, if overtime assignments were misapplied contrary to the seniority provisions contained within state employee contracts, the state government could be subjected to penalties.

Taxpayers were on the hook for overtime hours never worked, due to the elaborate seniority-driven work rules regarding the assignment of overtime that remain in place until this new Compensation Plan is in effect on January 1, 2012. (See sidebar)

According to findings of the Governor’s Commission on Waste, Fraud and Abuse, the DOC reported premium overtime paid due to errors in 2010 cost $83,174.61 in penalties. DOC managers had assigned 2,623 overtime hours to less-senior employees and the many of the more senior workers who had been passed over later received pay for hours they never worked.  This practice will be eliminated under the new Compensation Plan.

Certain compensation add-ons and differential pay options were eliminated in the new Compensation Plan.

Additional reforms contained within the new Plan include:

  • The bulletin board provided to post information about union activities can now be used for other matters
  • Taxpayers will no longer finance paid time off for union activities
  • Nearly 38,000 state employees will be eligible for Discretionary Merit Compensation based on Merit, Pay Equity, and Retention.  Before Governor Doyle got rid of DCA’s (similar to the new DCMs) most union contracts prohibited merit from being a consideration
  • One contract allowed Police Communication Operators who work through lunch and bring a lunch a reimbursement of $4 a day for a bag lunch.  This is eliminated
  • Another contract allowed certain nurses and nursing assistants an extra dollar an hour for mentoring.  Mentoring is now considered a part of anyone’s job
  • Most provisions granting extra pay for carrying a beeper were eliminated

Previously, the entire legislature would vote to ratify state contracts with non-amendable up or down votes. Now the Compensation Plan merely needs to be approved by the Joint Committee on Employment Relations.

Recognizing the controversy that surrounded the last frenzied attempt to ratify state employee contracts, Governor Walker has requested that this Compensation Plan be available for employees and the general public to scrutinize for ten days prior to JCOER acts on the measure.