May 21, 2020

Executive Branch Negotiations Update

The following message is an update for the Executive Branch on the status of our negotiations with the Commonwealth for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), as well as the general state of affairs. Our current CBA expires on June 30th of this year.  The CBA does however, contain a so-called “evergreen clause” which extends the terms of the agreement if a new agreement is not reached before the expiration date of June 30, 2020.
We began preparing for negotiations in the Fall of 2019 by conducting surveys, establishing a bargaining team, preparing proposals and conducting numerous caucuses.  We began meeting with management in February 2020 to establish ground rules and set a series of bargaining dates.
And then the world changed. 
The first impact of the State of Emergency was that in-person bargaining sessions with large numbers of people present simply were no longer feasible.  As we go forward however, we are confident that we can accomplish what we need to with virtual meetings which we have been using effectively since the emergency began.
The second major impact was that we have had to devote the overwhelming share of the Union’s resources in the past two months to negotiating the arrangements that allowed all of our members to be safe and continue to be paid.  We have accomplished a great deal of increased health & safety measures for our members in a short span of time:
  • 10,000 members successfully telecommuting after NAGE negotiations;
  • Successful negotiations for accommodation for those members at high risk of contraction 
    • This number will grown as more equipment and VPN access becomes available.  
  • Documented cleaning and sanitization of all workplaces;
  • Stocked cleaning supplies and PPE;
  • COVID-19 testing for Emergency/Core personnel;
    • Fighting for testing for ALL members as they return to the workplace;
  • Alternating schedules of members working in-office to limit contact;
  • Alternative work assignments
  • Administrative leave with pay (SKE)
  • Negotiated Hazard Pay for EHS & DOC members
  • Filed legislation for sick time for those with COVID-19
  • Filed legislation for Hazard Pay for first responders
  • Filed legislation for presumption of contraction of COVID-19 in the line of duty 
And much more. Although we still have some significant issues outstanding concerning these arrangements, we have begun to shift some of our attention to making existing telework arrangements permanent and negotiating the terms of return to the workplace where telework is not possible.
The third major impact of the emergency as it relates to negotiating a new contract is far more serious that the logistical issues raised in the first two impacts described above. The dominant fact, from a negotiating perspective, is that the fiscal condition of the Commonwealth has deteriorated dramatically since March.  Where we were looking at the likelihood of significant surpluses then, we are now looking at billions of dollars in revenue shortfalls. The fiscal climate is worse now than it was in 1982, 1989, 2001 and 2008, which were the major state fiscal crises in most of our lifetimes. Shortfalls of the magnitude of those being reported not only bode ill for the prospect of raises, they raise the specter of worse case scenarios for things like layoffs and furloughs.
Despite all this, we are not without hope.  There is the possibility of a significant stimulus package of aid to state and local governments now being considered at the federal level. We have been in close contact with our legislative delegation and believe we have their unanimous support for such a package. Our Washington D.C. office has also been hard at work on this.  NAGE has been lobbying for passage of the Heroes Act, specifically the provisions regarding hazard pay.  The Heroes Act, unveiled by the House Democrats last weekend and passed Friday includes a wide range if initiatives designed to support American workers and their families throughout the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis, including funding for state and local governments.  The bill includes a grant program to provide essential workers with a $13 per-hour, up to $10,000 total, for services provided during the state of emergency.  While Senate Republicans has voiced opposition to the House proposal, it is our continued hope that your ongoing lobbying efforts and public pressure will result in a strong support package that will help our state and local governments weather the fiscal story brought on by COVID-19. You can see our communication with Congressman Neal HERE.   
Another base for hope is that things are likely to get better rather than worse. The situation may be considerably brighter three, six or nine months from now.  Our collective view is that our best strategy is to play defense for the time being and focus on things like preserving the gains we have made in alternative work arrangements and then to shift back to offense once the economy has improved.
As always, we appreciate the confidence you have placed in us.
We will keep you updated as things progress.  

The American Labor Movement has consistently demonstrated its devotion to the public interest. It is, and has been, good for all America. - John F. Kennedy
NAGE HEADQUARTERS 159 Burgin Parkway
Quincy, MA 02169
Main Phone: (617)376-0220
Main Fax: (617)984-5695
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