258 at Evergreen dodge state pay cuts

Bargaining: Parties strike deal to cut payroll through use of attrition, furloughs

bshannon@theolympian.comMay 14, 2012 

Nearly 260 union-represented staffers at The Evergreen State College are avoiding 3 percent pay cuts July 1, reversing an agreement the Washington Federation of State Employees and college had reached previously in a one-year contract.

The parties struck an agreement this month in which the school will reduce its payroll costs by 3 percent using attrition, voluntary furloughs and other moves to trim about $462,000, said Evergreen President Les Purce.

But 258 line workers represented by the federation – who were the only staffers on the 700-employee institution facing pay reductions – will avoid the cuts.

“The result of the earlier negotiation was not equitable. So we came back to address it,” college spokesman Jason Wettstein said Friday, explaining it was the university’s idea to approach the union. “It was not equitable because one employee group would have had to have a salary reduction.”

The decision not to cut pay is in contrast to the 3 percent cut in pay and hours that is hitting the vast majority of state workers in general-government agencies over the 2011-13 period.

“The higher-ed model of efficiency is one we wish applied to general government, but that is water under the bridge,” federation spokesman Tim Welch said.

The Evergreen agreement follows what most higher-education institutions have done, avoiding reductions in staffers’ pay.

In a May 10 email announcing the agreement to staffers, Purce said the college still was reducing personnel costs by 3 percent to meet the Legislature’s requirement for all institutions in the budget for 2011-13.

“We expect to be able to make up that reduction through the voluntary furlough program, employee turnover savings and other compensation base reduction strategies,” Purce explained.

Since July 1, the state has reduced pay for close to 90 percent of its roughly 58,500 full-time-equivalent employees, while letting universities consider which way they wanted to make the cuts. Those 3 percent reductions in payroll for agencies and colleges were designed to save more than $350 million, one piece of a series of budget plans and cuts that have closed a roughly $6 billion budget gap since 2011.

But under agreements the state reached with the federation and two other general-government unions, the pay cuts are temporary. Pay for agency workers will automatically go up to the prior level in late June 2013.

That readjusted level of pay would be subject to further changes – up or down – in any contracts negotiated for the two-year period beginning July 1, 2013.

State budget director Marty Brown has been unwilling to say much about the negotiations with the federation, which started this month.

The union laid out some requests for Gov. Chris Gregoire’s bargaining team. The parties don’t plan to return to the table until later in the month, Welch said.

Specific talk about wages won’t start until after the next state revenue forecast on June 20, Brown and Welch said.

Welch said the 3 percent “snap back” in pay and hours worked should not be seen as a pay increase.

“We don’t know what the governor will come to the table with,” he said. “If they wanted to extend the 3 percent (cut), they would have to come to the table with another proposal.”

bshannon@theolympian.com
360-753-1688
theolympian.com/politicsblog

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