By Len Lazarick
Gov. Larry Hogan will host the annual holiday party for state employees Thursday afternoon at the governor’s mansion. But outside Government House, members of the state’s largest public employee union, AFSCME, plan on protesting what they say is the administration’s failure to negotiate a new contract or respond to any union proposals, despite a Dec. 31 deadline in state law.
“AFSCME members began negotiations with the State of Maryland in early October and made proposals which do not cost the state money, but in fact save the state money,” said Patrick Moran, President of AFSCME Maryland Council 3. “Two months and three negotiating sessions later the state has failed to accept those proposals or to make counter proposals.”
State Budget Secretary David Brinkley called the charges “preposterous,” pointing out that he was personally meeting with Moran Wednesday afternoon on other issues. He did not deny that the Hogan administration had not responded to the union proposals.
“They’re not the only union,” Brinkley said. “We’re still focused and concerned about the budget and the long-term deficit” and “we didn’t finish the final agency meetings [on next year’s budget] till last Friday.”
The state budget goes to the printer before Christmas.
The state cancelled a negotiating session on Monday, since it had no responses to the union proposals, an AFSCME spokesman said.
Union wants outsourcing reduced, pay hike
The union has proposed that the state reduce outsourcing contracts to private companies by 1%, saving over $143 million annually, and use the savings to fill empty state positions.
“They’re almost 800 people short in the department of corrections,” Moran said, and many correctional officers are forced to take overtime to cover shifts. The state complains about overtime, Moran said, yet it hasn’t held a training academy for new officers in months.
He said similar staffing issues exist in the state’s mental health facilities.
The union is also asking for an across-the-board $1,200 raise for all employees, for step increases and an extra day of pay in leap years, like 2016, to eliminate the extra day members work for no pay every four years.
AFSCME has also filed an unfair labor practice because the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services made changes to the sick leave process for correctional officers, without negotiating the change while negotiations are still ongoing.
“They are not huge financial issues, but they keep using excuses that they have to wait for the revenue projections,” Moran said, even though “they face quite a surplus.”
“They don’t come prepared or have to postpone the meetings,” Moran said.
On one thing Moran and Brinkley do agree.
“I’m not going to negotiate the contract in the paper,” said Moran.
“We’re not going to negotiate this in the press,” Brinkley said.