October 7, 2010

State walks away from negotiations on proposed new furloughs; management tactic sets stage for uncertainty

After three days of negotiations on the latest round of proposed furloughs in DSHS to meet the governor’s across-the-board cuts of 6.28 percent, the state walked away from the table shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday.

Their retreat from talking about creative ways to bridge the budget gap leaves DSHS employees hanging.

"We do not know what they are going to do," said Federation bargaining team member Sue Henricksen.

"The union offered a number of recommendations that would yield cost savings and would keep communities safe," said Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux.

Management’s Monday promise of partnership to solve the problem ended Thursday with the Federation team actually having to search for a management bargaining team in the halls of the General Administration Building. The Federation team came prepared to bargain over management’s latest counterproposal. But for some reason the Labor Relations Office side wasn’t ready.

Management never came to the table with a specific proposal. On the second day of negotiations Wednesday, management took 10 hours to respond to the union’s offer.

After the union proposed maximum flexibility for the workforce in their furlough proposal, management countered with a very inflexible, rigid approach to furloughs.

When pressed on their approach, management abandoned the union’s creative and viable cost-saving measures and indicated they needed more time to determine their direction. It’s not even clear if they will go forward with the new proposed furloughs.

The spokesman for the Labor Relations Office said they were reconsidering whether to do the additional furloughs at all. He said a DSHS representative would contact the union next week regarding future negotiations.

So, the state blew it. It’s a golden opportunity lost. And those of you in DSHS are the ones left scratching your heads. Three days and all the state could say was, "We’ll have to get back to you on that."

We know management has left DSHS members with a lot more questions, uncertainty and anxiety. But know that your union negotiators stood strong for you, showed the ability to be creative problem solvers. Your team of DSHS member negotiators worked long and hard in good faith with you in mind—and with the safety of your clients above all else. But in the end management walked away. That speaks for itself.

So, as we know more, we will pass it along to you.

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