Negotiations between the Corbett Administration and 17 unions representing state employees are heating up, with the June 30th deadline for new contracts approaching.
In his March budget address, Corbett pointed out public employees’ salaries have steadily increased over the past few years, despite billion-dollar state deficits and a shrinking private sector. “With that in mind, we will be looking for salary rollbacks and freezes from state employees, as well as asking them to increase their contributions for health care benefits,” he said. Unlike several other Republican governors across the country, Corbett has made it clear he respects public employees’ right to collective bargaining. But in his speech, he added this message to union leaders. “Collective bargaining doesn’t mean some ill-defined middle ground. It means finding a spot where things work. In this case it’s going to have to work for the good of the taxpayer, or it’s not going to work at all.”
The Corbett Administration needs to finalize new contracts with 17 different unions by the end of the month. Dave Fillman, who heads the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, said talks have been “cordial” so far, and that three more meetings have been scheduled, but the heavy lifting hasn’t happened yet. “We still have the 4 percent wage reduction and the 5 rolling furlough days, which was in the original proposal. And we’re hoping we can make some movement in that area. We already offered the one-year wage extension with no increase, but that was rejected.”
AFSCME represents 45,000 state workers. An AP story reported the Corbett Administration is concentrating its efforts on negotiations with Fillman’s union, and hopes to use their eventual deal as a template for contracts with other groups.