Politics & Government

Teamsters win arbitration award giving Corrections’ employees 9.8% raises over two years

A few more contracts for state employees are getting settled ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for putting contract costs into Gov. Jay Inslee’s next budget proposal. The Washington Public Employees Association settled through negotiations while Teamsters Local 117, which had reached an impasse with Inslee’s negotiating team, won an arbitration judgment late last week.

The ruling in favor of the Teamsters provides pay raises of 5.5 percent in July 2015 and another 4.3 percent in 2016 — with additional raises of 2.5 percent for select positions. About 6,000 employees at the Department of Corrections are covered by the Teamsters contract, union spokesman Paul Zilly said.

“At 9.8% over a two-year contract, the interest arbitration award gives you the highest general wage rate increase of all general government employees,” the Teamsters union statement tells members on its website.

The Washington Public Employees Association which represents about 2,200 employees in state agencies including the Department of Revenue, also has settled its contract — securing 3 percent raises in July 2015 and roughly 1.8 percent in July 2016.

The latter agreement is virtually identical on pay to that of the largest general-government union, the Washington Federation of State Employees. Like the WFSE agreement and the Teamsters’ award, WPEA’s wage pact has additional raises of 2.5 percent or more for employees in select positions that have recruitment or retention issues.

“I’m both relieved and dissatisfied about the outcome of the bargaining process,” WPEA president Dave Schiel said in an email. “Relieved because it’s over and we made significant progress. But at the same time dissatisfied, because the progress we made does not make up for the salary reductions, cost increases, and inflation that our members have experienced over the past six years. And we know that there will be further cost increases next year.”

Separately, a coalition of more than two dozen unions reached agreement last week that locks in state employees’ share of health-insurance premiums at 15 percent with limits on how the state might increase out-of-pocket costs such as co-pays and deductibles. Employee premiums for that plan this year ranged from $79 a month for an individual policy and $227 for full family coverage.

For all of the contracts, the Office of Financial Management would need to certify the contract terms as financially feasible after the state’s next revenue forecast in November.

OFM calculated that costs for extending the WFSE contract to all represented and nonrepresented employees in agencies that had WFSE bargaining units would be about $250 million from the state general fund in the next biennium, which begins July 1, 2015. The health care pact would cost another $112 million. OFM spokesmen say the budget agency won’t have cost estimates for the other contracts until all are settled.

The federation is conducting an online ratification vote with a deadline of 5 p.m. Tuesday, and some members led by Joe Nilsson, a former board member, are urging defeat of the wage contract on grounds it does not do enough. Nilsson also has complained that many state managers have received pay hikes in the past year while rank-and-file workers ineligible for step-pay increases did not.

WPEA is conducting a ratification vote using paper ballots that also has a Tuesday voting deadline, Schiel said.