UnionMaine

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The Last State Employees

We may be the last State employees to have a real pension system.
The Cliff bill passed but at the last possible second this ticking bomb of an amendment was added.
The amendment to the Cliff bill is a poorly disguised attempt to destroy both the pension system and the health care system that our members have fought for over the years.
If passed as written it will immediately create a two-tier system where new employees will have no interest in protecting the pensions and benefits of existing employees. Since over sixty five percent of State employees are eligible to retire in the next five years the change could come very quickly leaving a Union without union and with members fighting over the same pot of money and not for the common good. This is a severely edited version of the amendment with my own translations added. I would like to thank the MSEA-SEIU website for posting the link to the amendment as soon as it was available.
Design of unified pension and benefit plan for all state employees and teachers who are first employed with the State after December 31, 2009.
The system would “design…..a…pension and benefit plan,….to apply to all state employees and teachers who are first hired after December 31, 2009 with no prior creditable service.
B. “State employee” includes:
(2) Judges entitled to retirement benefits under Title 4, chapter 27 or 29;
(3) Members of the State Police; and
(4) Legislators entitled to retirement benefits…
Then the favorite political target, our health care.
Health plan.
All…members of the plan and their dependents must be entitled to membership in the health plan.
B. Every active member of the plan and the spouse and dependents of each such member may continue coverage under the health plan in retirement if criteria for eligibility are met as prescribed in Title 5, section 285, subsection 1-A. The task force may recommend changes in eligibility criteria.
Each retired member must be entitled to 3% of the premium for each year of ….service up to a maximum of 90% (Please note the death of fully paid health care in retirement) For a covered spouse or dependent, the subsidy is 1.5% of the premium for each year of the member’s creditable service up to a maximum of 45% of the premium. Here is the carrot “We will pay up to 45% of dependent health care”, yet there is no mention of paying any more for current employees and here is the start of a split.
3. Pension plan. The task force shall design the pension plan component of the plan in accordance with this subsection.
A. Every member of the plan must contribute to both Social Security and Medicare, and the employer of each member must contribute the employer’s share of Social Security and Medicare. This translates to paying for Medicare at a cost of hundreds of dollars a month more than the cost to current retirees.
Each active member of the plan must be entitled to a supplemental defined benefit pension calculated as a percentage of base compensation for each year of service. Base compensation equals the income received in the 5th highest calendar year of service. Here is where they drop your pension again by not paying the average of your three highest years, The fifth highest year. Where is the incentive for an employee to continue to try to improve themselves in the last five years? Benefits are vested after 6 years. Then they go back to increasing the time to become vested.
Normal pension benefits commence after 30 years of service or at 62 years of age, whichever occurs first. I can’t believe this would stay in. Hire on at eighteen and retire at forty eight? Never happen.
D. A member who separates from service before normal retirement may:
(1) If the member has at least 6 years of service in the plan, leave the member’s contributions and interest on account in the plan until the member retires at 62 years of age, with those benefits adjusted each year by an amount equal to the Consumer Price Index, up to an annual maximum of 3.5%; Read the fine print again: This would drop the maximum retirement COLA one half percent.
E. The actuarial cost of retiree health insurance and supplemental defined pension benefits, when combined, may not exceed 6% of aggregate payroll for all members. The cost of the plan must be divided equally between the member and the member’s employer. In between the lines is says “We will then start cutting funding for current employee’s health care in order to fund this plan.”
Sec. B-2. Report. The task force shall submit a report…….by December 10, 2008. After receipt and review of the report, the joint standing committee may report out a bill to the First Regular Session of the 124th Legislature.’

The State’s summary follows my own take on this. The State is set on a course to destroy the current pension system and replace it with Social Security, a system that may not be there for the retirees in the future. They are doing it to cut benefits and to set Union members against each other. The new Pension system will depend on our State government accurately forecasting the economy for thirty years into the future and asks all new employees to trust their figures. The same department that forecast a twenty five million dollar return from unused gift cards and has make serious over estimates of revenue for years. Yeah, I’m ready to trust them. How about you?

SUMMARY
This amendment directs the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, the Commissioner of Administrative and Financial Services and the State Employee Health Commission, within their existing resources, to design a unified pension and benefit plan to apply to all state employees and teachers that are first hired after December 31, 2009. Under this unified pension and benefit plan:
1. In order to enhance portability of benefits and eliminate the issues associated with the government pension offset and the windfall elimination provision of the federal Social Security Act, every state employee and teacher subject to the plan will be covered under Social Security;
2. All new employees will be members of a common health plan with benefits that are identical to those paid for in accordance with current law and collective bargaining contracts;
3. In addition to Medicare and Social Security, each member will be entitled to a supplemental defined pension and retiree health benefit;
4. The present actuarial cost of retiree benefits under the plan will be limited to 6% of payroll to be divided equally between the employee and the employer;
5. Continuing health coverage will be offered to retirees and their dependents;
6. A retired member may receive a subsidy of up to 90% of the cost for the retiree’s own insurance and up to 45% of the cost of a spouse or dependent. The level of subsidy will be graduated to reflect length of service;
7. The future cost of retiree health benefits will be paid into an existing dedicated revenue account by assessing the current payroll of active members a percentage that is divided equally between the member and the member’s employer;
8. Each member’s supplemental defined pension will be calculated as a percentage of base year compensation times years of service. The percentage, rounded to the nearest tenth, will be calculated based on funding available after deducting the cost of the retiree health benefit from the 6% total benefit cost; and
9. A vested member may retire after 30 years of service or at 62 years of age, whichever occurs first. A member who retires early may recover 1.5% of the member’s own contribution plus 6% interest if benefits are withdrawn as cash.
The amendment directs the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, the Commissioner of Administrative and Financial Services and the State Employee Health Commission to submit their report on the design of the unified pension and benefit plan, together with proposed implementing legislation, to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over labor matters no later than December 10, 2008 and authorizes the committee to report out a bill to the First Regular Session of the 124th Legislature.

Remember to get involved and to stay involved. Take the bargaining survey and make your opinion heard. So far our health care is at the top of the list of concerns.

What else is bothering you? Do you like getting less than the Federal rate for mileage costs when gas is nearly four dollars a gallon?

Click Here to take surveyClick HERE to see how other members are voting.

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April 19th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Uncategorized | no comments

Buy your beer and wine now

After returnig from New Hampshire where he was stocking up on beer, wine, and ciggarettes Governor Baldacci issued a new executive order calling for further cuts in the 2007-08 fiscal year in a bold move towards streamlining government.

Among his suggestions is closing the MDOT, laying off all employees and selling all State Highways to corporate bidders. A Republican suggestion to allow all legislators to retire immediately regardless of age with full benefits and a $36,000.00 was hailed by the minority party as helping the economy. To quote a Republican leader “We are in favor of less government, and with a deal like this, a lot of us will quit tomorrow. This is the one suggestion that got both Union and Public support if they promised to stay away.

One story going around has blamed the Democrats for wanting to shorten the sentences of minor drug offenders. The Republicans have shot back with a plan to save even more money.
All criminal offenses will be subject to death penalty if you are found to be a liberal, no appeal, immediate sentencing. Funding the courts will be done on a “pay go” system where if you pay you can go. This is considered simply an extension of corporate deregulation.

Republicans moved to exempt incomes over $350,000.00 form all taxation including excise, sales, income, and bottle deposits. They say they want to build on the successes of the Bush tax cuts.

All funding will be removed from the public defender program in deference to the new “waterboard legal assistance program”. Defendants will be given a fair chance to provide the answers that the court deems necessary. They will know their sentences even before the questioning begins. In the case of trouble makers prosecutors are authorized to keep asking until they get the answers they need. Giving the defendants the answers ahead of time will almost eliminate the need for trials. All defendants that plead guilty before being told the charges will be given a free bright orange “Club Gitmo” Tshirt signed by Rush Limbaugh.

DHHS will no longer take children from parents. Every year there have been two or three mistakes where kids had to be given back.

If this program saves even one child from being removed wrongly from their family, it will be worth it one law maker said.
The governor’s order puts in place a hiring freeze – for all hourly employees, but actually increases funding for upper management due to the increased workload handling lay offs.
The deficit will force all State departments and agencies to shut down except for upper management employees.

Not having to actually provide services for the citizens of Maine will save hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

In other news:

Three Bargaining Units rally for reclass anticipating pay study outcomes.
State stonewalls again
In a preview of things to come, nearly 10 workers in offices participated in worksite actions in support of pay study negotiations.

A Union spokesperson commenting on the large turnout as compared to the usual rallies said “This is the kind of member action we’ll need to prevail in the upcoming contract battle,” In every worksite, in every department, we need to show state officials, legislators and the governor we are united, we are fearless, and we are ready to act.”

More than 3 members picketed and rallied at the SOB, while three or four more work­ers statewide took a five-minute solidarity break, standing up in their offices, or maybe they were just stretching. There is an unproven rumor that two more employees emailed their representatives, but there is no real proof.

Asked about the claims of stalling by the Union a human resources spokesperson was quoted as saying that Union members are being unreasonable if they think an increasing work load, massive increases in the complexity of the jobs, and wages that have fallen behind inflation for years are a justification for a living wage.

If State employees want increases every contract they must first accept a 50% reduction in pay and benefits. They must all become salaried, doing away with overtime. After a fresh start we would have room to start discussing reasonable increases during the next budget, or maybe the one after that, or the one…………………………

PLEASE TAKE THE BARGAINING SURVEY

YOUR IDEAS COUNT.

The first Union Bargaining summit coming up on May 10. All former members of negotiating teams and bargaining committees are invited. Do you think things should be done differently? Have you ever asked why something was done? Show up and make yourself heard.During the bargaining for the 2007-2009 contract your bargaining team found the bargaining survey gave our teams more input and information than had ever been received before. This site and your Union are both collecting ideas now.

Your ideas count!Click Here to take survey Click HERE to see how other members are voting.Interested Union members will be given a chance to be heard and help develop plans before they are sent to the Union Board of Directors for a vote. Please take the first step and take the online survey.

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April 16th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | BALDACCI, MSEA 2008 bargaining survey, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, Maine DOT, Maine State Employees, SEIU 1989, TECHNORATI, msea maine | one comment

Bargaining Suggestion Pro-Tech & OIT

This is a suggestion from an OIT employee. I have edited it to remove all personally identifying information. We need to be looking for Pro-Tech and OIT ideas for the next contract and we need to be doing it yesterday. This is one of the best laid out ideas yet. Why is it a good idea? Because it puts forward a goal, and then provides justification. It also raises other questions about fair play, and does not ask for anyone to be knocked down, only for talented employees to be recognized and compensated fairly.

The tech people in the field should be considered 2nd and 3rd level support. That being said, the regional folks should be at least an ISS 2 or higher. They work with minimal supervision and most of the time none at all. They have a very large range of skills that are needed to be able to resolve issues on their own. The help desk should be mostly ISS 1, at first level support and work under the supervision of managers or more skilled 2s and above.

Most field personnell are doing things that qualify as a 2. They work on servers. Our department is full of non-technical management over the ISS 1’s and ISSS 2s who have less technical ability than the field workers and are getting paid more for doing it. There should be a career structure setup that if you start out as an ISSS 1, then lets say in 3 years, you take a test to score your skills and if you pass, then you would be promoted to a 2. Right now it seems that to get promoted, someone has to like you. Just my 2 cents.

PLEASE TAKE THE BARGAINING SURVEY AND

MAKE YOUR IDEAS COUNT.

The first Union Bargaining summit coming up on May 10. Do you think things should be done differently? Have you ever asked why something was done? Show up and make yourself heard.
During the bargaining for the 2007-2009 contract your bargaining team found the bargaining survey gave our teams more input and information than had ever been received before. This site and your Union are both collecting ideas now. Your ideas count!

Click Here to take survey

Click HERE to see how other members are voting.
Interested Union members will be given a chance to be heard and help develop plans before they are sent to the Union Board of Directors for a vote. Please take the first step and take the online survey.

Enter your Email

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April 9th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | MSEA 2008 bargaining survey, MSEA contract, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, SEIU 1989, TECHNORATI | no comments

Susan the Bruce: Torture – the GOP Litmus Test

I have been wanting to write a political piece about what has happened to the U.S. and why it is hard to be proud to be a U.S. citizen in the time of George Bush. I couldn’t find the right words but here is a small excerpt from Susan the Bruce posting facts that have to make any one ashamed of the last seven years. Please follow the link and read the whole post and read some great writing.

In 1947, after WWII, the United States charged a Japanese military officer with war crimes. Yukio Asano was found guilty of water boarding a US civilian, and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. In 1968, the Washington Post published a picture on the front page, of a US soldier engaged in questioning a captured North Vietnamese soldier. He was being held down as water was poured on his face, and a cloth covered his mouth and nose. The caption under the photograph said the technique induced a sense of drowning and suffocation, intended to make him talk. The US soldier was court-martialed within a month of the photos appearing in the paper. In 1901, a US Army major was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for water boarding a prisoner in the Philippines, during the Spanish-American War. To read the rest of this post by one of the nets best bloggers follow this link.

Susan the Bruce: Torture – the GOP Litmus Test

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April 5th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Uncategorized | one comment

Lay offs? Benefit Cuts? Apathy?

The current budget negotiations have brought up the ghosts of years past. No raise contracts, furlough days and political pressure to “hurt” State Employees not for financial reasons but for political gain.

We must face the fact that we are looking at demands that we get no raises, suffer benefit cuts, and layoffs, the MSEA will face some tough challenges when its representatives take their seats at the bargaining table some time later this year.

The first meetings should take a place towards the end of the year, while the legislature will be working to finalize the 2009-2011 budget.

The State plans to have privatized the Levinson center by that time, though the plan was delayed for a while after workers and the parents of clients objected. Decreases in Social benefits will be widespread and the right wing will be in frenzy as they face serious political challenges in both the local and National elections. They will be desperate to blame anyone for their failed policies. In Maine they will want to blame Unions.

The right will be promising that more tax cuts for the rich and privatization of State services to their friends will solve all the problems.

In order to avoid becoming a public target we must get the word out that the union recognizes that Maine and the county are facing difficult times.

We need tell our neighbors that Union members want to suggest ways to make State services more effective and efficient. Tell them we know State workers have an obligation to participate in innovation and quality. We know the jobs best and this gives us the ability to suggest ideas to provide better services and do the best job possible at the lowest cost. We are Mainer’s too, and we don’t want to waste tax payer money because we are tax payers too.

Whether the Bush administration admits it or not the economy is in a recession, and that will impact our negotiations. We can go in and demand ridiculous terms, but that doesn’t make any sense. What we have to do is sit down early and work on both the financial aspects and all of the open working condition issues that are open and unresolved. Then with our research done and in unity we can begin to bargain with the State.

The MSEA, executive branch bargaining teams must realize that we are also carrying the hopes for the State College system, AFSCME, and other units. Historically their contracts have mirrored whatever we have been able or unable to achieve at the table. We will need to try to hear from as many members of our MSEA-SEIU locals to get ideas and gather strength.

Our Union is looking at new methods of bargaining starting with a bargaining summit on May 10 but so far neither members or Union officials know what new process may be developed or how they will be implemented.

The bargaining summit is not exclusive. Individual workers are invited to meet other members and with Union officials to create an official channel for workers to raise proposals, grievances, lobby for policy changes and ask to be heard. One thing is certain; any member that does not participate is giving up the right to complain about the results.

PLEASE TAKE THE BARGAINING SURVEY AND MAKE YOUR IDEAS COUNT.

There is a Bargaining summit coming up on May 10. Do you think things should be done differently? Have you ever asked why something was done? Show up and make yourself heard.
During the bargaining for the 2007-2009 contract your bargaining team found the bargaining survey gave our teams more input and information than had ever been received before. This site and your Union are both collecting ideas now. Your ideas count!

Click Here to take survey

Click HERE to see how other members are voting.
Interested Union members will be given a chance to be heard and help develop plans before they are sent to the Union Board of Directors for a vote. Please take the first step and take the online survey.

Enter your Email and sign up to get new posts.

Preview Powered by FeedBlitz

April 5th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | MSEA 2008 bargaining survey, MSEA Dues, MSEA ELECTIONS, MSEA contract, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, Maine State Employees, SEIU 1989, TECHNORATI, UNIONMAINE, msea maine | no comments