November 19, 2010

Governor issues proclamation requesting unions return to bargaining table to help with deficit

Gov. Chris Gregoire tonight issued a proclamation requesting that all state employee unions immediately return to the bargaining table to help deal with the additional projected $385 million deficit problem announced today.

We have told the administration that we have never left the table – we bargained Tuesday and Wednesday and have four more dates before Christmas – so there’s no need to order us back to the table.

The governor apparently is triggering the part of the collective bargaining law that calls for negotiations to modify an agreement:

“If, after the compensation and fringe benefit provisions of an agreement are approved by the legislature, a significant revenue shortfall occurs resulting in reduced appropriations, as declared by proclamation of the Governor or by resolution of the legislature, both parties shall immediately enter into collective bargaining for a mutually agreed upon modification of the agreement.”

So she can call us back to the table – even though we never left -- but both parties have to agree to any modification of the contract.

So we already are bargaining, Federation members have submitted countless money-saving ideas through the union, through the governor’s “budget transformation” program and the program set up by Sen. Joe Zarelli and Sen. Margarita Prentice. And you don’t need to be reminded that in the past two years you’ve already sacrificed more than $1 billion in lost pay raises, furloughs, furlough-caused pay cuts, higher health costs, diverted pension funds, layoffs and the resulting workload increases. As one Federation member told the governor’s staff Wednesday during the health care job action, “We’ve taken it already in so many different ways.”

Indeed, we are the ones pushing the governor’s bargaining team to speed up the glacial pace of negotiations.
The governor’s move may be an attempt to head off calls for action in the wake of the lower state revenue forecast announced today. But we should also point out that her own budget director, Marty Brown, voted against accepting that forecast.

According to The Olympian: “It defies logic. The collections are close’’ to what were predicted in September, Brown told this morning’s meeting of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. “I just cannot see an almost $50 million-a-month drop from today to June 30.’’

We will keep you updated. But we wanted to let you know as soon as possible to give you some context if you hear about it on the street.

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