Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hold your nose (Part 3) . . . and vote YES

Your union has worked hard to negotiate a wage agreement with the University System of Maryland for FY 2006. If approved by you, this agreement will be added to the Board of Regents' budget request for this year's Maryland legislative session.

This is another historic moment that marks the second time UMCP employees have had a say in the budgetary process.

We encourage a yes vote on this wage agreement. If this proposal is voted down, our pay increases in the budgetary process may be in jeopardy.

Voting on this wage agreement will take place on Friday, December 23, 2005 beginning at 10:00 a.m. and ending at 2:00 p.m. in the Edgar Allen Poe Room (Room 2101) at the Stamp Student Union. You must bring identification (ID) to be allowed to vote and be a member of the exempt or nonexempt bargaining unit.

All AFSCME exempt and nonexempt bargaining unit members will be permitted to take up to one (1) hour of paid release time for this voting. This time must be coordinated with your supervisor.

Here is a summary of the agreement:


SUMMARY OF AFSCME - USM
PAY AGREEMENT FOR FY 2006



WHAT RAISE WILL WE GET NEXT JULY 1?

Before we won collective bargaining, we just had to wait to see what management would ask the Governor for, what the Governor would put in the budget and what the legislature would approve. In the contract (known as an MOU) we won language that forces management to come to the bargaining table and negotiate with us over what they will ask for. Now we are no longer just waiting at the end of the process, we are a player at the beginning.

We negotiate over two money items- the Cost of Living increase and the Merit Pay increase for those who meet standards.

COLA – 2% WITH A POSSIBILITY OF MORE

This year, it appears that the Governor is going to put in a 2% raise for COLA. That’s management’s offer so far at another bargaining table where the state has to meet with AFSCME. In our negotiations, we agreed to whatever level of funding the General Assembly provides for. It’s extremely unlikely that they will cut a raise proposed by the Governor; in fact they have never done so. What we’ll be fighting for in the legislature is to increase this 2% at least by having the raise as a flat across the board amount instead of a percentage. To arrive at the flat amount, the state would have to come up with an average that would include all of the very high paid administrators across the state. As a result they would get less and we would get more.

MERIT 2.5% DEPENDING ON THE LEVEL OF FUNDING THAT THE USM GETS

Before collective bargaining, whether or not we would get a merit increase was up to the whim of management. Their own policy made it dependent on whether or not “funds are available.” How much money had to be available was something that was left up to them. And then there was the question of available to whom and for what? Now they have to negotiate that.

With this agreement, if management gets a certain amount of money, we will be guaranteed a 2.5% increase (2.5% Merit Pool for Exempts). If in the unlikely event they get less, but more than a much lower amount, we will get a 2% increase (what management says is the average step increase given to State employees). The schedule of what increase in funds triggers what increase is on the other side. An increase of below $80 million would trigger no merit. Management’s request to the Governor is at the $136 million level and the situation looks very good for getting the 2.5%.

Management began negotiations with a proposal that might have made it impossible or much more difficult to get a merit raise. Negotiations changed the figures. Plus, as opposed to last year, management agreed to increase the second level from 1.5% to a 2% merit increase (equivalent to what they say other state employees get on average).

SHOULD WE VOTE FOR THIS? YES

Is this raise enough in light of increases in health care, gasoline, home heating costs and more? No! And it is certainly not what we deserve. But it is as much as we can win at this point AND it locks in
management- requiring them to give a merit increase at certain levels of funding, even if other agencies in the state were to not give a merit increase. A vote against what we have tentatively agreed to will not result in a larger Cost of Living increase. If it would, we would all be voting “no.” In this case, a “no’ vote would only put our merit pay increase in jeopardy. Due to timing required by law, negotiations must be concluded by the end of the year and we were just able to get management to make the last changes on December 19.

Our contract does not allow for negotiations over what the COLA will be.
Unlike workers in private companies, the law does not allow us to negotiate with management on that. In our situation, we can only negotiate on what the University will ask the Governor for. In this case, knowing the Governor, we have opted to agree on whatever the legislature approves.

The struggle for the best COLA will be during the legislative session.

After that, the next battle is -Who will be the next Governor?

For more information contact the AFSCME leaders on your campus;
or call 1-800-492-1996 and ask for Jeff.

Friday, December 16, 2005

News from the December 13 wage negotiations

Sorry to report, but we were unable to move UMS, in the person of Joe Vivona, from his initial, best, final, and only merit pay increase offer of 2.5 percent. That will be the number we get from him next Monday (if not lower) after he has presented his UMS dog and pony show to the Gov.

It was not for lack of creative trying. Today the bargaining team presented four separate proposals that were all turned down flat.

It wasn't until the final hour that we finally realized that UMS (i.e., Joe) has a very different concept of "bargaining" than what you might find in say, the dictionary.

Here's the deal:

UMS is currently operating on a yearly $1.1 Billion budget and it won't be cut. Mr. Vivona intends to ask the Gov. for an ADDITIONAL $130 million. Joe told us that $75 million of that figure is MANDATORY increases (energy, health care, pay increases, etc.). AFSCME has the actual figures.

Within the MANDATORY $75 million increase is $27 million for staff pay increases to provide every UMS employee (staff, faculty, managers, administrators, executives, etc.) with a 2.5 percent MERIT raise. Because it would be wrong, or something, to deny the non-union freeloaders to benefit from the work of the volunteer negotiators, right? Just like last year.

So here's what we said to Joe:

"This year the state is boasting a $2.5 to 3 Billion budget surplus, yet you have glommed on to the offer AFSCME made UMS last year, a year with a very bad budget outlook. In the spirit of cooperation in tough times, last year's AFSCME merit pay demand was linked to several gloomy UMS budget guesses and maxed out our raises at 2.5 percent."

Then we asked Joe, " . . . if the Gov. agrees to your $130 million ask, or even $100 million, would UMS consider sharing that bounty with staff in the form of a 3 or 4 percent merit raise?"

Well, Joe got very angry and said that there is no fluff in his $130 million budget ask! He wouldn't lie to staff about such a serious matter. He thought we had established a relationship of trust. Blah de blah de blah.

Hmmm . . . I thought: $130 million ask minus the $75 million mandatory increases, that leaves----$55 million dollars of mad money and UM Staff deserves a fair share!!

Then the light bulb went on!

Joe is asking for money above the $75 million MANDATORY increase only for carefully defined pet projects that our manly man Gov. is sure to love. And the Gov. clearly doesn't love STATE EMPLOYEE PAY HIKES!

Joe went on to explain how UMS wants to cover the cost of increased student enrollment above the amount of increased tuition take. Why says Joe, "There are children who might be denied a college degree--children who might be the first in their families to attend college."

Okay, okay, enough already. Thank goodness he didn't mention widows and orphans--I only had one hankie.

But then Joe went on to talk about how he intended to sell the Gov. on new initiatives in nanotechnology research, stem cell research, a new institute on aging, and GET THIS!! the purchase of the Ward Duck Decoy Museum in Salisbury. Hey, I'm all for duck hunting, but (speaking of widows and orphans) shouldn't food for housekeepers' children rank higher on Joe's UMS priority budget ask list?

So here's the thing. We are going to get a 2.5 percent (or less) merit pay increase come Hell or high water. Because . . . that's all Joe intends to ask for.

That's bargaining?

Greg Johnson
President AFSCME Local 1072
University of Maryland College Park

News from the December 5 wage negotiations

As usual, please forward this information to your friends and coworkers.

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At the December 5 UMS Non-exempt wage reopener negotiations we learned the following:

That the UM System is still waiting for their budgetary marching orders from Annapolis.

Until then, their merit pay proposal hinges on three budget appropriation levels:

  • If the state increases the UMS budget by $100 million or more: 2.5 percent
  • If the state increases the UMS budget by $75 million or more: 1.5 percent
  • If the state increases the UMS budget by less than $75 million: 0 percent

Here are some facts and figures:

  • There are 21,000 full time equivalent (FTE) employees in the UM System. At this time we do not know if this number also includes faculty and management.
  • There are 9000 non-exempt FTEs.

At the moment, the UMS total "asking budget" (the total request for increased state appropriations) is approximately $135 million. The UMS negotiator claims that $75 million of the $135 million are "mandatory" increases.

Here is a partial list of "mandatory" increases:

  • Reimbursement for money borrowed
  • Staff merit raises
  • Facility renewal
  • Debt service for new buildings
  • Energy
  • Health care

The UMS negotiators claim that both health care and energy cost increases amount to $30 million. (Are you sure they bargain with the energy and health care providers as doggedly as they do with their employees?)

They claim that a 2.5 percent merit raise for all 21,000 UMS employees will cost approximately $27.5 million.

They claim that a 2.5 percent raise for the 9000 non-exempt workers will cost between $4 and $5 million. This is the only group that AFSCME represents at these negotiations!

The UMS negotiators continue to cry poverty. They want us to believe that we are asking them for $27 million in wage increases. THIS IS NOT TRUE!

It would certainly be "nice" for all 21,000 employees of the University System to get the same raises as bargaining unit employees. The UMS negotiators are holding non-exempt bargaining unit pay increases hostage in the name of "fairness." Fairness to the thousands of non-union employees in the UMS system.

There is a name for the UMS non-union employees who stand to benefit from the hard work of the union volunteers. That name is FREELOADERS.

The UM System negotiators claim that they include all the 21,000 employees in the raise package in the interest of fairness--fairness to the top earners, that is.

In the interest of fairness to the low-wage employees, we must not back down from our demand for a flat-rate (non percentage) wage increase.

You need to know what are we fighting for--

$4-5 million out of the UMS total request for state appropriations of $135 Million.

That is less than FOUR PERCENT of the UMS budget increase request. The UMS negotiators are telling you loud and clear that your raise is not worth FOUR PERCENT of their budget!

We believe that staff should be a priority--tell your Maryland state legislators that FOUR PERCENT of the UMS budget is the very least they can do.

Greg Johnson
President AFSCME Local 1072
University of Maryland College Park

Attention! Ehrlich spin doctors report to your desks!

Crikey, in The Washington Times, no less!

Remember that Johns Hopkins, Giant Food, Lockheed-Martin, and Northrop-Grumman already exceed this law's humane requirements. Ehrlich "spokesman" Fawell calls this a "tax increase."

Let's ask the Gov's spinmeisters if they have a phrase for: "Full-time job with wages so low employees are forced to apply for taxpayer-supported Medicaid"?


Override of Ehrlich's veto set as priority
By S.A. Miller
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published December 16, 2005

ANNAPOLIS -- Democratic leaders said yesterday they are preparing to challenge Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. from the start of the upcoming General Assembly, a 90-day session expected to have partisan clashes and election-year posturing.

House Majority Whip Anthony G. Brown said he is already lining up votes to override Mr. Ehrlich's veto of a bill requiring large businesses to pay employee health insurance.

If the assembly's Democratic majority overrides the veto by Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, and the so-called Wal-Mart bill is enacted, the businesses could close and move hundreds of jobs elsewhere.

"The House leadership is considering the bill one of the top priorities, if not the top priority," said Mr. Brown, a Prince George's Democrat who is also the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

The legislation is just one of several issue that continues to divide the parties. The governor's plan to revamp the state's juvenile-justice system and his upcoming package of health care legislation are also expected to create political wrangling.

Mr. Brown said he was "pretty confident" the General Assembly leadership will secure the requisite 85 House votes to override the Wal-Mart veto when the session convenes Jan. 12.

Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Baltimore County Republican and the minority whip, expects the veto also to be overridden in the Senate, despite "having every Republican supporting the governor."

Supporters say the bill will protect employees of large corporations.

The Ehrlich administration and other opponents characterize it as a new business tax and say the job-depleted Eastern Shore would likely suffer first because the bill may persuade Wal-Mart to cancel plans to open a distribution center there.

"It is very telling that the Maryland legislature's first order of business is to overturn a veto to increase taxes," Ehrlich spokesman Henry P. Fawell said yesterday.

He also said the move would be the "first step toward government-run health care."

The bill, officially titled the Fair Share Health Care Fund Act, requires businesses with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on employee health insurance.

A business could also choose to contribute an equivalent amount to the state Medicaid fund. Companies that do not meet the requirement would be subject to a $250,000 fine.

Right now, Wal-Mart is the only business in the state that meets the criteria, though opponents of the legislation say it would eventually be applied to smaller businesses.

The state's other large companies, such as Northrop Grumman, already provide adequate health insurance benefits to comply with the law.

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