Trust me, I work for the Government

A letter to Senator Diamond. State Employees are Mainers too

Scott Austin is a 20 year State Employee and a member of the MSEASEIU board of directors. If you have something to tell the Senator, click on the link at the bottom and send him your thoughts. Please remember to be polite no matter how you feel as yelling and rude comments only make us look ignorant and do not get sympathy.

Scott Austin
Senate Chair Diamond, House Chair Cain, Members of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs; I’m Scott Austin, a twenty year state employee at the Department of Environmental Protection and a member of the MSEA-SEIU Board of Directors.

I understand the magnitude of the crisis we are all in and the very unpalatable choices you are being charged to make. I don’t envy you and I know you are trying to do your best to minimize the pain while not excessively burdening any one group. It must be gut-wrenching.

State employees realize that we must do our part in this crisis; and we are willing to sacrifice to be part of the solution. (Emphasis added)

But we would like a voice in that solution. We have as an organization communicated that to all of you since the Governor’s announcement on May 1st. That view is universal through our ranks.

Up until last night, it seemed that there would be a spirit of cooperation amongst the affected parties to choose our “poison” as it has been expressed. There is support at the worksites I represent for the Governor’s proposal as well as Libby Mitchell’s proposal. The common theme being loss of salary for time off with the final package being negotiated by the affected parties to meet your need for booking savings with our desire for input and ideas to achieve Maine’s needs and goals is acceptable to State workers.

Unfortunately, that spirit did not survive your deliberations late last night. The door was slammed shut. All state employees woke up today to learn that their pay would be slashed 5% and there would be nothing in exchange, including input. And all this while some in the legislature are salivating over how much more they can extract from the health insurance premiums of the dedicated workers that serve the citizens of Maine.
Collective bargaining was respected…..until last night.

What you did last night and may be continuing to do as I type is sowing seeds that will reap you the lowest state employee morale in Maine history. Is that the legacy you wish for this legislative session?

I close by apologizing for any of my fellow state employees that may have left you disrespectful messages. I have heard that may have happened and I’m sorry if you received that type of message. MSEA always stresses that when communicating to you folks we can be open and frank, but always respectful to you who serve.
I know these are difficult times, but we really should broaden our perspectives, be creative and work together to get out of this mess.

Cheers! (I’m trying to stay positive)
Scott Austin
Environmental Specialist III Maine Department of Environmental Protection
MSEA-SEIU Board of Directors

EDITOR: Click the link below to send the Senator your thoughts.


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May 15th, 2009 Posted by narsbars | Maine State Employees, STATE EMPLOYEES, pay cuts, senator bill diamond | 5 comments

Committee Votes State Employees Get Cuts

This came in late last night. One party in the legislature could not stop eating once they had stolen our lunch. The ability to bypass bargaining and pass laws to punish went to their heads.

Our Union leadership spent every minute at the legislature and the very worst was avoided. Please Give Credit to Ginette Rivard MSEASEIU Vice President and Tim Belcher, Executive Director for making sure we found out the facts instead of rumors as soon as possible and for the endless hours she has spent working for us.

The straight party line vote will tell you who we have to work for no matter how bad this was, picture a Republican Majority.

The Appropriations Committee just voted on our health insurance, (Thursday Night) the last item affecting our members in the budget .

The health insurance vote was the first party line vote in this budget cycle from this committee. This is the proposal: FY 10: employees earning less than $30,000 pay 5% of the premium, those earning above $30,000 pay 10%,
effective 10/1/09.
FY11: Everyone pays 10%, but as soon as a wellness incentive plan can be implemented, everyone gets option of earning back a rebate equal to the amount of the premium contribution.

The Republican proposal would have added a third tier over $90,000 that would pay 15%, but would only let employees earn back 1/2 of the premium contribution.

Add to this the 5% across the board cut in pay for all employees, effective 10/1/09. We have urged them to allow us to bargain over the 5% cut in pay, so we could get shut down days where possible. They did not accept that proposal.

They also disagreed with our request to leave health insurance intact. On that issue, they went even further than the Governor, but were somewhat less harsh than the State and Local Government Committee, which recommended an immediate 10% cut.

We had also urged them to find a way to be equitable among all employees, to avoid layoffs, and to preserve step increases.

The final package is responsive to those needs, including no additional layoffs. spreading the pain among all employees, and eliminating the merit freeze in both years.

We will generate a cost comparison that will help explain how these plans developed. Finally, there is no question that our political allies stood up for state workers in crafting a difficult compromise.

Senator Mitchell and Speaker Pingree in particular worked hard to resist intense pressure on the Appropriations Committee concerning health insurance.

Sen. Mitchell worked with Frank Johnson to develop the idea of allowing state workers to earn their way back to full premium.

While no one liked the idea of unpaid holidays, that proposal opened the way to spread the cost of these cuts to all employees, not just our members.

Her ideas reduced the impact on thousands of employees, particularly the lowest paid. This is a very tough moment in our union’s history, but the truth is that many political leaders came to the defense of state workers. Without their help, this package would have been much worse.

Editor: Picture a Republican Majority

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May 15th, 2009 Posted by narsbars | Ginette Rivard, MSEA-SEIU, Maine State Employees, Tim Belcher, health care cuts, pay cuts | one comment

Ginette Rivard at Appropriations Live

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Ginette Rivard is reporting live at 9:16 pm Thursday night at the appropriations hearings. It is early but Ginette says so far “2 proposals in play. John Martin versus Pat Flood” Details to follow.

Editor, the plans were 10% in the first year and 10% in the second year with a chance to earn back 10% with a wellness program. 10% in yr 1 and 10% in yr 2, earn back 5% 15% for all

According to Ginette “Things have changed” Rosen’s motion defeated. 5 for those earning under 30,000, 10 for those earning 30 to 90, 15 over 90. First 2 groups go to 10 in second year.

Only half incentive.


Martin motion for 5 for under 30,000 and 10 for all others in year 1 and all at 10 in year 2 with full incentive as soon as Health Comm can pull it off. Vote along party lines thus a divided report.

Ginette: 10:35 pm

They just moved to reconsider.

Ginette, keep those Blackberry batteries running. I will continue this as soon as I hear something from Ginette.

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May 14th, 2009 Posted by narsbars | Ginette Rivard, MSEASEIU, Maine State Employees, Tim Belcher, pay cuts | no comments