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Will OPEGA be Allowed to Stop Waste and Fraud?

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Will State Government ever stop fraud and waste in Privatization?
August 16, 2009.

As State Government seeks to enrich private interests with no concern for the taxpayer, public officials in other State and local governments are seeing outsourced contracts bleeding red ink and are starting to review “good old boy” contracts that have been in place for years.

Maine government has always been ready to settle for the quick fix. They have waited until times are desperate, rather than planning ahead.

Our governors and legislators on both sides of the aisle have always been ready to fall back on blaming State employees as too expensive while seeking the cover of downsizing State Government and claiming contractors can perform public services “better, cheaper, and faster.”

The well hidden facts show that this is very often so much cow flop. The justification for privatizing government services is becoming harder sell as more and more examples of waste are shown. On the National level the examples include abuses by federal contractors such as Halliburton and Blackwater in Iraq.

How many dead Marines were killed due to faulty showers turned into electrified death chambers?

On the interstate our rest areas are closed. Except where State Employees work, the interstate looks like a scene from a disaster movie.Contractors paint their trucks the same color as State trucks, buy their employees the same uniforms, then when they “lean on shovels” a State employee is blamed.

In Maine we outsourced the grass cutting on the interstate. When the costs for State employees to cut grass was figured, the State costs were figured based on weekly cutting from May 1 through Labor day. When the so called cheaper bid was given out the contractors were only required to cut the grass two times during the season.

This contract has never been reevaluated. Millions, perhaps tens of millions of dollars are going to mostly one Augusta landlord while State buildings remain empty and the legislators are being urged to tear down the remaining buildings and rent from Eddie G. In the mean time the state study on the cost of rental space has been suspended since 2008.(Check the link to OPEGA)

The Maine Revenue Service pays private contractors to collect taxes and then lets them skim some of the funds, all the while paying more for the services than the cost of hiring State employees.

State IT hires contractors to do services that could be provided by State employees by withholding training funds for State employees in order to claim that we have no one able to perform the services.

.The real costs of privatization must be exposed. 911, Fire Departments, State Police, Motor Vehicles, in many places the profit motive does not support the the public good.

In the name of public service, some State and local agencies are limiting privatization: · The Metrolink commuter rail agency in Los Angeles voted to stop outsourcing and hire its own train crews, after a crash killed 25 people.

There are rising cries for Audits of State contracts. Last week, OPEGA, ( The Office of Program Evaluation & Government Accountability) called for a thorough review of State contracts to determine where services might be less expensively provided by State employees.

Citizens are not being served, State offices are closed, our budget is put in danger by privatization and it’s only to enrich a few at a huge cost to the taxpayers.

Legislators, perhaps looking to their own retirement as consultants are trying to outsource many functions, rest areas closed or outsourced, grass cutting on the interstate where it is looking like a wheat field, not a road.

Last year the Levinson center in Bangor was outsourced to save twelve cents a day.

OPEGA suspended

Employees lost pay and benefits in order to enrich a corporation and save $512.00 a year. The bidding process alone probably ate up a hundred years of the so called savings.

We must demand that our government works for all Mainers, and tax dollars are no longer flushed down the toilet by government contracts. The need to end waste, fraud and abuse in government contracting demands legislation be passed to ensure:

Ensure that jobs that should be done by government are performed by State employees. Agencies would be required to identify those jobs performed by contractors, review the costs and bring all jobs back in house that can be performed at the same or lower costs.

All contracts must consider the loss of revenue to the State for any contract bid that would send substantial dollars out of State.

We lose tax revenue, and we lose good jobs for Mainers by paying out of State and even off shore contractors. Considering this loss of revenue would bring many more jobs in reach of State government or to other Maine employers.

Agencies must be required to provide inventories of all contracts and to track costs and performance.

Require agencies to determine whether there are or will be staffing shortages and develop plans to address them.

Require that all contract costs be made public and that all terms of any outsourced conract be based on the same work being performed by State government.

Direct the Administration to make long-overdue reforms, as suggested by OPEGA, (The Office of Program Evaluation & Government Accountability)
to contracting out policies and reviews.

Suspend all contracting out that would result in the loss of any State jobs until all the reforms have been made across the government.

Until then, check out how much has not been done, how many dollars are in limbo because the studies have been suspended (cost to rent buildings for one)
how much more we need to do?

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August 17th, 2009 Posted by narsbars | Maine, Maine State Employees, Privatization, State Government, outsourcing | no comments

January 2010 They will be back

Maine State Employees are already facing cuts of as much as fifteen percent over the next two years.

The legislature says the cuts will expire on June 30, 2011. I don’t believe them and I don’t know anyone who does.

So far not a penny of the wasteful contracting in the State has been cut. Jobs that can be done by State Employees go to private firms at up to twice the cost because the politicians “can’t increase head count”.

Tens of thousands of square feet of empty State owned buildings will be either heated for no reason or torn down to ensure that landlords can keep getting rich.
California has led the way for years
The future of Maine is shown by the present in California. Well before the State of Maine started talking about shut down days and take backs California was already demanding furloughs and pay freezes.
Now Arnold is coming back for an additional 5% pay cut for all State employees and massive cuts to services for the poorest that will in turn cause thousands of layoffs for State Employees.

That is bad for CA., and we can expect the same or worse in Maine in January 2010 unless we find the waste and stop it now.

The Maine legislature is already talking about how to gut the pension system and you know it won’t be only for new employees. Thanks for thirty years…….Get out!

The good is that California State Employees know how to fight back and how to work with the State at the same time. They have been fighting the outsourcing of State jobs to more expensive contractors. They have just won their first major victory.

State Personnel Board backs Local 1000 on outsourcing

Ruling ousts contractor; state workers to take over security at SF Civic Center

Backing a challenge by Local 1000, the State Personnel Board (SPB) has disapproved an expensive outsourcing contract for private security guards – costing up to $10 million – at the San Francisco Civic Center.

The ruling forces the Department of General Services (In Maine the Bureau of General Services) to bring these security jobs into state civil service, where state workers will take on those duties.

The SPB executive officer backed Local 1000, finding that the state failed to prove a legal justification for using private security guards – rather that state workers.

Two months, later the full SPB board sided with Local 1000. The SPB’s board’s order gives the DGS 120 days to fill the positions with state employees. Over the past three years Local 1000 attorneys have challenged more than 120 contracts, winning more than 80 percent of the cases.

Is this the time for us to start spending our MSEA dues to challenge the State? This is the kind of campaign that the public would support.

The Civic Center Plaza ruling may boost a larger security service contract challenge that is expected to be heard by the SPB this summer. If Local 1000 wins that case, state workers could be filling about 900 security guard positions all over California that are now be held by higher-paid contractors.

Local 1000 research and independent studies have shown that outside contractors cost twice as much as state employees who already do the same work.

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May 31st, 2009 Posted by narsbars | Maine State Employees, SEIU 1989, government waste, outsourcing | no comments

If the MSEA-SEIU was in Canada

If the MSEA-SEIU was a Canadian Union we Couldn’t be blackmailed. Make no mistake about it, we are blackmailed every time we negotiate a contract.

Unions across the United States have made mistakes while bargaining contracts. Short term decisions, a raise this year, $50.00 for tools, or a night shift premium have contributed to our present crisis.

In the short term each goal was a good idea and helped some or all employees. The disaster of working only for short term goals was predicted in the 1940’s by Walter P. Reuther, one of America’s great labor leaders, president the United Automobile Workers union (UAW) between 1946 and 1970. Reuther’s early call for universal health was his one failure. Reuther built the UAW and foresaw the cost health care for Union members would make those benefits a target for cuts and attacks on Union members in the future. He built the UAW but sadly failed to get other Unions on board. In the early years the Unions saw health care as a Union benefit, something to be used as a recruiting tool to gain members.

Short term thinking was the norm up until the 1990’s when the full implications of the anti-Union Reagan and Bush administrations started to have the effect the right was looking for: Unions became weaker, but while becoming weaker they were forced to look to the long term and think about health care for all, retirement for all because they were becoming the targets that Reuther had prophesied.

In Maine Union negotiations for short term goals alone are not responsible for putting us where the legislature is able use the threat of cutting our health care as a club to force contract concessions rather than negotiate fairly.

Unions are not to blame for a collapsing stock market, the housing market and the loss of over $12 trillion dollars in home equity and investments. This depression has killed consumer spending.

UAW workers don’t earn $72.00 an hour, they earn nearly the same and in some cases less than non-union plants.

State employees don’t get cost of living raises, but all these lies make reaching a fair contract more challenging.

Auto industry management, Bush deregulation, and Wall Street greed have put our Union and the State of Maine in the same place. A place where we can fight with each other or work together for the common good.

Where once a good job with benefits allowing a worker to provide for a family was seen as an honest goal, now the right paints anyone working for more than minimum wage as greedy.

At the same time an auto worker or a State employee is painted as greedy the right wingnuts have been screaming for tax cuts for the rich, bankruptcy for the airlines to break Union contracts, and they tried to get their hands on Social Security.

The Unions are not to blame for a dysfunctional, profit driven health care system in the U.S. If we operated under and paid the same as the Canadian system, Maine could be many millions of dollars if not hundreds of millions of dollars ahead of where it is now.

The companies in Canada still pay some dollars towards employee benefits but the the savings for health care could be as much as 50%, putting them in line with costs in Canada.

No government would ever use all of the savings wisely, but some of the savings would still go to workers as higher wages and to taxpayers as lower taxes.

Maine is also picking up part of the tab for many spouses and dependent children. The taxpayer would not have to carry health care costs in a Canadian model health care system.

Taxpayers would have the same health care as State employees and we would no longer be targets for having what everyone deserves.

Even with these additional savings Maine would still be facing serious problems. The Politicians have made a string of bad choices by putting off road repairs, stealing from pension funds, and betting the future on ever rising home prices that would bring in ever higher property taxes.

This is one of the most important contracts we have ever negotiated. It will be a tragedy if the example of good jobs with good benefits is made to to disappear through a depression caused by greed and crooked financial dealings of Wall Street, Reagan, Bush senior and George Bush.

For the most part the legislature is not bad, they don’t hate Unions or State employees, but the situation is made worse by virtue of the fact that most legislators are looking for the easy way out. State employees paychecks are the easy way out.

The public thinks we get cost of living raises every year and raises every year. In one online forum they scream that we should only get a raise equal to the Consumer Price index. I wish! If we had gotten that size raise for the last six years we would have averaged 4% per year, not the 2% per year we actually received.

The public isn’t told that State employees have in effect been taking pay cuts every year for over a decade earning less than inflation and still taking cuts in benefits.

Maine is partially in this disaster due to legislators who are wealthy, and unable to understand where their spending habits have put the State, the taxpayers, and the employees who serve them.

While the appropriations committee was cutting funds for foster children last year one legislator stood in a public hearing and asked me if no one had ever told me that State promises are no good. He was looking for a laugh and thought he was funny. So many of them do not understand what it is to work for a living.

We worry about possible demands that Union members give up previously negotiated wages and benefits while some legislators refuse to listen to ideas that could save the taxpayers millions. The Union and the legislature must start adopting the long view.

They don’t feel the damage they are doing because Maine has a part time legislature and for the most part only those who can afford a legislators chump change salary can serve. They just don’t understand.

As Union members look at their paychecks and wonder if they will be smaller next year, if they will have jobs next year, the legislature holds the club of health care cuts and lay offs over our heads.

Look again at that paycheck, the amount deducted for health care or paid by the State, with this money, the State has helped to pay the CEO of Anthem a multi-million dollar salary performing a job a small group of State employees could be hired to perform. They spend more millions renting buildings that landlords refuse to maintain while State owned property rots for lack of maintenance. Contracts are outsourced and the costs are never checked after the first year. They don’t understand.

The Mainers that are State employees know where the waste is, where the money is going. We want to work with the State to save tax dollars. We see the waste, we love Maine, and we pay taxes too. A partnership could save millions.

Be ready to call your legislator this coming year and tell them you understand, you vote, your family votes, you pay taxes too, and if the citizens of Maine can not get a driver license, the roads go unplowed, the public will remember.

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December 17th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | 2009 contract, Executive Branch Bargaining, MSEA, MSEA contract, MSEA-SEIU, MSEASEIU, Maine State Employees, SEIU 1989, Thomas Maher, UNIONMAINE, msea maine, outsourcing, state employee lay offs | one comment

Outsourcing Pros and Cons

We don’t need people, technology can answer our questions.

While e-mail and the Web have made strides, the phone remains the primary channel consumers use to interact with customer care. In a 2007 Harris Interactive Research study sponsored by our company, 97% of respondents reported that they most often use the telephone to contact customer service. Today, more than 79.8 billion calls are made to call centers annually, and that is only expected to rise as use of the mobile phone for customer care increases. However, providing one-to-one call center interaction is not always economically feasible.

On the surface, overseas outsourcing—with live human operators—might appear to be a good means to save operational costs. However, research shows that the American consumer sees those that outsourced customer services as providing less satisfaction and lower resolution levels.

Customers are willing to use automated systems for a number of reasons, such as the convenience of ATMs that are convenient, fast and under customer is in control.

Technology will win out in the end because

• It is available 24 x 7.

• It can answer questions without a language barrier.

•Customers can do it for themselves

• Technology is the perfect answer to “I want it NOW”

• Consistent answers every time.

The warm bodies on phones aren’t going away but as technology changes faster than the number of trained support staff the opportunities to implement technology to reduce costs and increase revenue will continue to grow.

Outsourcing and technology don’t add Quality or Value

Cost savings, efficiency, no internal human relations issues, there are a number of reasons to outsource or automate consumer contact centers or help desks. Outsourcing and technology have a proven record of delivering benefits. There are several factors companies should consider before outsourcing vital customer service applications. First the quality of the service should be given priority over cost effectiveness if you want to have long term stability and growth.

Consumers know that support calls are likely to be answered Dallas to India or Viet Nam. For the most customers this has not been a problem but a growing concern is whether their questions are answered quickly, competently, and courteously.

“A sampling of consumer complaints about outsourcing contains comments such as “The worst customer experience I ever had was placing a support desk call that terminated in India for a product purchased in the U.S.

“If you expect to provide customer satisfaction by providing outsourced help, your long-term success is at risk”

“Outsourced customer service is cost effective for some, but at what cost to the consumer?”

Providing support by outsourcing allows companies immediate savings through virtual operations that need no physical space. They don’t hire, train, or retain employees. Staff can be used and dropped at a moments notice to handle call volumes. On the other hand they lose skilled help every time they reduce call volume, they build no employee loyalty or long term product knowledge.

Outsourcing saves money, but only to the short term bottom end. The customer gets excessive wait times, lowered quality, and on many calls the issue doesn’t get resolved in a single session. An American customer reaching many call centers feels disrespected and unvalued. Ultimately, outsourcing removes consumer loyalty and trust.

In my opinion, one of the worst examples of not respecting the consumer is a famous maker of scanning software, also a maker of IVR software. They are in favor of automated response systems. You need to check some of the software they sell in the U.S... No tech support whatsoever with the exception of one free call for installation issue. No bug reporting unless you pay them. The only support a regular user of their software gets is an online forum with FAQs, which was off line for months at a time.

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November 20th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Maine State Employees, Rod Hiltz, SEIU 1989, furlough days, outsourcing | no comments