May 6, 2011

Union asks court to block illegal contractiong out by DSHS Children's Administration

The Federation on Thursday (May 5) asked a court to block the planned statewide contracting out of child welfare management services in DSHS Children’s Administration.

The Federation wants the court to simply call a time out to let its administrative and legal challenges play out. If DSHS is allowed to proceed, irreparable harm will be done, the union lawsuit says.

The union will go before a Thurston County Superior Court judge May 13 to ask for an injunction to block the contracting out until the union’s full lawsuit and unfair labor practice complaint filed April 20 are resolved.

The union argues it would be costly for taxpayers, detrimental to young children receiving child welfare services and unfair to employees if DSHS moves forward with its contracting out – and later is ordered to rescind it.

The Legislature in 2009 authorized two regional pilot projects to test the effectiveness of privatizing the Child Welfare Services case management. The results were to be evaluated in 2015. Only then would the state determine if statewide contracting out made sense.

But since then, DSHS has proposed fast-track expansion. The Federation contends that’s an end run around the law, bargaining rights and civil service rules.

“Civil service employees represented by the WFSE who are laid off will suffer the loss of their livelihood, at least temporarily, during tough economic times,” the union’s lawsuit says.

“Homes or automobiles lost because payments are not made cannot be recovered when the employee eventually receives back pay as a result of the illegal layoff.

“Contractors with illegal contracts that are set aside on the basis DSHS violated (the civil service and bargaining laws) may have legal redress at the taxpayers’ expense.

“Recipients of child welfare services, young children particularly, may suffer as a result of certain inconsistent child welfare services case management, if not management of less quality. It is also likely that a loss of vital services for the children and families DSHS servers will be experienced due to the requirement in the RFP (request for proposals) for additional administrative functions within the private agencies awarded such contracts that are to be funded within the existing limited service budget.”

In asking the court to place a temporary hold on the DSHS contracting out, the union argues the statewide privatization scheme is “not justified by savings or efficiencies” as required by law.

    “Neither the affected employees nor the WFSE, their representative, have been afforded the opportunity to offer alternatives to the purchase of case manager services” as required by law.

“The affected employees have not been afforded the opportunity to compete for the contract for such services” also as required by law.

Documents of interest:

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