June 14 – MEA-MFT and our fellow unions filed an Unfair Labor Practice *ULP) charge against the State of Montana as represented by the 2011 Legislature for failing to bargain in good faith on the state pay plan, House Bill 13. Read more here.
The state’s executive branch has now responded. Read the Associated Press story:
Executive branch says state pay deal was in good faith
By MATTHEW BROWN Associated Press | June 14, 2011
BILLINGS — Montana’s executive branch fulfilled its obligation to state employee unions when it submitted a pay raise later cut by the Legislature, an attorney for the Department of Administration said Monday.
Labor Relations chief Paula Stoll said the raises for 11,000 state workers were negotiated in good faith.
Unions filed an unfair labor practice claim against the state last month after the Republican-dominated Legislature refused to adopt raises negotiated with Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
That agreement called for raises of 1 percent in 2012 and 3 percent in 2013. The Legislature instead adopted a measure that froze pay for most state workers through the next biennium.
Stoll said the department takes no issue with the facts presented by the unions.
“We lobbied for (the raise) but for the first time since the passage of the Collective Bargaining Act in 1973 the Legislature chose not to pass that bill,” she said. “I’m a respondent, but I may be a pass-through. They’re actually going after the legislative body.”
The unions are seeking a new round of negotiations and pay raises even larger than previously agreed to because the state’s revenue outlook has improved.
MEA-MFT union leader Eric Feaver said the dispute would now go to a state hearing officer for a decision that will be presented to the Board of Personnel Appeals. The board can either affirm or reject that decision, and then either party in the dispute could appeal to state District Court, Feaver said.
“This process has just literally begun. I didn’t expect them to say, ‘Yes, we committed an error,’ ” Feaver said. “I wouldn’t be surprised for the Department of Administration to say they’re not at fault. And they aren’t.”
House Speaker Mike Milburn, who was named in the union labor charge, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.
A spokeswoman for the governor’s office would not say if Schweitzer supported a new round of negotiations with the unions.
“We’re going to watch and see what unfolds in the (Labor) Board process,” spokeswoman Sarah Elliot said.
Even if the negotiations resumed, there is no guarantee any deal reached would be approved by the Legislature.