By Megan Poinski

A new contract between the American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employees and the state was approved with 89% of votes cast.

Almost 6,000 state government employees voted on the contract over the last two weeks in January, said AFSCME Maryland Executive Director Patrick Moran. CORRECTION Both The 24,000 members of the employees the union represents, including those and thousands who are eligible but have not joined could vote on the contract. Votes were counted on Wednesday.

AFSCME's Patrick Moran

“We expected a healthy margin,” Moran said. “In each bargaining unit, people had been saying favorable things about the contract, both members and non-members alike.”

The three-year contract takes effect on July 1. It was negotiated to “pay employees back” for enduring wage freezes, furloughs and other hardships during the recession. It includes the following benefits:

  • A $750 bonus in fiscal year 2012, beginning July 1.
  • Five paid furlough days – reclassified as paid administrative leave – for the years represented in the contract.
  • If state revenues are up, a 2% COLA in 2013.
  • If state revenues are up, a 3% COLA in 2014.
  • If there are enough increased revenues, reinstating of step salary increases starting April 1, 2014.
  • Guaranteeing raises for employees working at jobs above their current pay grades.
  • Holding down increases in insurance costs for fiscal year 2012.

Moran said that the union had been working on the contract for about six months.

“I think this is acknowledgment of the hard work the bargaining team did, and the confidence they have in our contract,” Moran said.

The new contract also includes mandatory fees that non-union members must pay AFSCME. These fees, allowed by a 2009 law, had not been included in any union contracts until this year. The fees cover costs associated with services the union provides for all employees, ranging from negotiating health benefits to settling grievances.

Moran said that he cannot say what the fee may be for non-union members because it will need to be precisely calculated by actuaries and accountants.

Now that the contract is ratified, Moran said the union will be focusing its attention on other legislative priorities, specifically defending pensions and retiree health care.