State workers who took less pay may see cuts restored


OLYMPIA — State workers who saw a smaller paycheck over the past two years because of the state’s budget woes are likely to see pay cuts restored under tentative contract agreements with the state after months of negotiating. Yet to be agreed to, however, is a contract on health benefits for about 60,000 state employees.

The state has been negotiating with more than two dozen unions since May. The state has reached tentative agreements with 15 unions on pay, and is in arbitration with 10. Another union, Teamsters Local 117, is still at the table on pay.

The proposed new contract would reverse the 3 percent pay cuts of the past two years. The separate health care talks are currently being done between the state and a coalition of the unions. Negotiations continue as an Oct. 1 deadline looms, in which contract agreements must be reached and ratified in order to allow inclusion in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s December budget proposal for 2013-15.

The state budget director, Stan Marshburn, said he couldn’t talk about specifics surrounding current negotiations, but that all parties are aware of the tight timeline.

“We’re keeping an eye on the clock and trying to resolve the differences,” he said.

If agreements aren’t reached by Monday’s deadline, but reached later, the Legislature could approve the extension of the agreement date. If no agreement is reached at all, the provisions of the existing contract continue for the next year.

Concerning pay, aside from the restoration of the 3 percent pay cut, the tentative agreement also restores a step increase of 2.5 percent for more than 29,000 employees. That step increase was agreed to in 2008, but was deferred until 2011 for implementation. However, due to budget concerns that year, the state negotiated another deferral until the next budget cycle that begins July 2013.

The two-year contract would also promise the possibility of a 1 percent raise in the second year of the contract for all state employees if state revenue rebounds faster than expected. Marshburn noted that that was solely a one-year possibility, “not a promise that it will continue into future biennia.”


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