State Workers

SEIU, State Patrol lieutenants yet to settle contracts

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s administration has formally signed or settled 22 labor contracts, leaving just four to go in the new budget year that started Wednesday.

Two labor agreements still are in negotiation, and two more await ratification votes by workers. The unresolved pact that affects the most people is with the Service Employees International Union Local 775, which is supposed to return to the bargaining table next week with the governor’s Labor Relations Office.

None of the agreements carries cost-of-living pay increases, and workers will continue to be paid at the rates they earned as of June 30, said Diane Leigh, director of the governor’s Labor Relations Office.

The SEIU dispute affects more than 20,000 home-care workers and does involve a request for higher pay for those who get certification, Leigh said. The union and the state also disagree about the level of state payments for worker health insurance, SEIU spokesman Adam Glickman said.

Glickman argued Thursday that the Legislature budgeted money that could be used to cover a larger share of the inflation, driving up health care premium costs for home-care workers, who earn about $10 an hour. Glickman said $10 million to $12 million is available if the state follows an arbitrator’s opinion that some care hours are not necessary.

“We’re not asking for new money; we’re saying shift that money that currently is (being spent) on unnecessary hours … to address the bigger problem, which is that thousands of low-wage home-care workers could lose their health care benefits” if premiums skyrocket, Glickman said.

But Leigh said changes to how money is allotted could reduce service hours and harm client care.

Leigh also said the Legislature provided money to cover up to 3 percent for inflation in premium costs for all state workers, home-care workers and child-care providers. In all cases, she said, workers can expect to pay higher out-of-pocket costs for health care.

Leigh also said the state has agreed to lower the threshold for health insurance eligibility so workers whose hours were cut by legislative action still can qualify. The 86-hour, three-month requirement has been reduced to 77 hours in six months.

“We have tried to mitigate the impact of health care benefits for their members based on the legislative reduction of client hours,’’ Leigh said.

Talks with SEIU are scheduled to resume next week, she said.

Talks are on hold with the Washington State Patrol Lieutenants Association, pending a Public Employment Relations Commission ruling on an unfair labor practices complaint.

Two other units will hold ratification votes on bargained agreements: the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association and a Public School Employees unit at Western Washington University.

Twenty-two other contracts are settled, including an agreement with the 40,000-member Washington Federation of State Employees. Gregoire signed the 18 contracts that required her signature, and representatives of 10 bargaining units joined the signing ceremony Wednesday.

Gregoire’s office identified the 10 unions present as the Washington Public Employees Union; the Coalition of Unions; the Washington Association of Fish and Wildlife Professionals; Masters, Mates and Pilots Deck Officers; Masters, Mates and Pilots Watch Supervisors; Marine Engineer Beneficial Association Licensed Engineer Officers; Marine Engineer Beneficial Association Unlicensed Engine Room Employees; Puget Sound Metal Trades Unions; the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific; and the Washington State Residential Care Council, which represents adult family home providers.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688