Union for SEPTA employees seeks injunction against outsourcing

Workers for SEPTA are seeking an injunction to prevent the transit agency from outsourcing maintenance work on Market-Frankford El cars.

Transport Workers Union Local 234 argued in a Common Pleas Court filing that SEPTA was wrongfully taking work from TWU members by paying $13 million to Bombardier Mass Transit Corp. of Plattsburgh, N.Y., to overhaul 176 wheel-assembly units for the cars. The maintenance of those subway “trucks,” which include wheels and gearboxes and motors, is normally done by SEPTA workers.

The TWU said SEPTA failed to meet its contractual obligation to “completely discuss and investigate the necessity for subletting before equipment is sent out for repair.” The union filed a grievance against SEPTA in April, seeking arbitration, but went to court last week because, it said, much of the work would be completed before an arbitrator could rule.

A hearing will be Friday before Common Pleas Court Judge Idee Fox.

SEPTA’s assistant general manager of operations, Luther Diggs said SEPTA had discussed the outsourcing with the union. He said SEPTA was saving time and money by paying Bombardier to overhaul the equipment as part of a bigger repair job on the frames of all 450 Market-Frankford units.

Cracks were discovered in 2009 in several frames of the Market-Frankford subway trucks, and SEPTA requested Bombardier, owner of the manufacturer of the subway cars, to make structural repairs to all Market-Frankford units at no charge.

After lengthy negotiations, Bombardier agreed to make the repairs, and to include the maintenance overhaul of 176 of the units, for $13 million. The rest of the units already had been overhauled by SEPTA’s workers.

“It made good business sense, if Bombardier was going to take them out and make repairs, to go ahead and overhaul them while they had them apart,” Diggs said. “It didn’t make sense to bring them back here and take them apart again.”

Diggs said SEPTA would save $700,000 by having Bombardier do the work, and he said “no one loses their job, no one gets laid off, no one gets fired.”

Claiborne S. Newlin, an attorney for the union, said SEPTA signed its deal with Bombardier on April 16, and the first meeting with the TWU about the outsourcing was April 13. Because the deal was already negotiated, Newlin said, the union never got its contractual opportunity to investigate the need for outsourcing or to demonstrate how SEPTA workers could do the work at lower cost.

The first of the units are slated to go to Bombardier for repairs on June 22, Newlin said, which compelled the union to seek the court injunction.

via Union for SEPTA employees seeks injunction against outsourcing.

Rep: Pension reform bills prevent tax on businesses | Central Penn Business Journal

Bills introduced this morning to move state pensions toward market-driven 401(k) plans could prevent future tax burdens on businesses, said Rep. Warren Kampf, who sponsored the legislation.

The twin bills would address the estimated $30 billion in underfunding of pension plans for state employees and school district employees, said Kampf, a Republican representing parts of Chester and Montgomery counties.

“We’re at a very tight spot and our taxpayers are feeling it at every level,” he said.

House Bill 2453 makes the changes for state employees. House Bill 2454 would address school district employees. The state Senate also is addressing the pension issue with Senate Bill 1540. The bills do not yet show up on the Legislature’s website.

By reducing the state’s expenditures on pensions, it would be able to direct more tax dollars to other parts of the budget without increases, he said.

The bills would most immediately address the expansion of pension plans by requiring all new state and school employees to be enrolled in defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, that shift more burden of paying for it onto the employee. The state’s contribution to the new plans would be set at a 4 percent match, Kampf said.

Existing employees would then be incentivized to freeze their pension and move to the new plan with the lure of a 7 percent state match and the ability to manage the account’s investment options, he said.

“We still have existing obligations and we have to fund that,” Kampf said, “but adding new employees to that system is just repeating the mistakes of the past.”

via Rep: Pension reform bills prevent tax on businesses | Central Penn Business Journal.

Springfield woes stalling Cook County pension reform talks – Blogs On Politics – Crain’s Chicago Business

Springfield’s failure to enact pension reform for state workers may be creating a little collateral damage up here in Cook County.

During much of the spring, I’d been hearing good noises over talks between county President Toni Preckwinkle’s administration and worker unions on how to close a $5.8 billion gap in retirement funding.

Ms. Preckwinkle was talking about the same sort of concessions that are on the table in Springfield, including raising the retirement age, hiking the employee contribution and cutting the annual pension cost-of-living adjustments.

But according to a source who would know, she also was putting some new money on the table, something that leaders of other governments have not done.

As of a couple of weeks ago, I’m told, they were pretty close to a deal.

But then, state lawmakers indefinitely kicked the state can down the road. That took some pressure off to do a county deal now, with talks at least temporarily stalled.

Officially, both sides suggest that they still think progress has been made and a deal can be made that would secure the pensions with more cash and shore up retiree health care in exchange for employee concessions.

“We’re working diligently with organized labor to find a solution,” she Kurt Summers, Ms. Preckwinkle’s chief of staff. “I’m encouraged that a solution exists.”

“We are encouraged that the county — unlike the city and state — is taking a collaborative not confrontational approach,” says Anders Lindall, spokesman for AFSCME, the county government’s single largest union. “We will continue to work to solve the pension funding problem in a way that is constitutional and fair to workers.”

We’ll see.

Meanwhile, some facts about the situation:

The pension fund now has only about 57.5 percent of the assets on hand that it needs to pay promised benefits. Workers now pay 8.5 percent of salary toward pensions, and do not get Social Security.

Other facts: The average retiree now gets a pension of about $38,000. But the average person retiring today with a full career in county government — 25 to 29 years of credit — gets about $48,000. Both figures will rise over time with the COLA adjustment.

via Springfield woes stalling Cook County pension reform talks – Blogs On Politics – Crain’s Chicago Business.

Pension reform » Ventura County Star

Re: Gary Johnson’s June 11 letter, “Public employees, giant pensions”:

Johnson is not alone in his thinking. I, too, find some of the pensions being bestowed upon public employees to be completely out of line.

Johnson’s example was Bob Roper, a fine man who put in many great years leading the Ventura County Fire Department, but $250,000 per year for Roper. Really?

I am a small-business owner who has had a successful run, and will have put in a good 40 years when I wrap things up in about four years. Every dollar of my “pension” will be self-funded, and if I am really, really lucky, I might be able to enjoy a retirement on about 30 percent of that amount.

As an added bonus, the taxes I pay help to also fund the retirement of our public employees, so it’s a double-whammy. Anybody out there wish to help me out?

Pension reform is not just logical and fair. The day is coming when it will be mandatory for our state to survive. Don’t get me wrong, I think all public employees should have a comfortable retirement at the end of their careers, just not a ridiculously excessive amount.

– Ronald Peters,

Thousand Oaks

via Pension reform » Ventura County Star.

Texans for Secure Retirement

Texas:

  • Texas Insider: The End of Unions?
  • Leppert calls for review of Dallas city employee pension systems
  • Texas workers fear push to overhaul their pensions
  • Texas teacher pension fund gave more in bonuses than all other state agencies combined, analysis shows
  • Vegas casino owners who got teacher fund investment are Perry donors
  • Katy ISD to hold retirement forums
  • Texas public employee pensions have time to recover
  • Some employees consider retirement before May vote
  • State employees need insurance help
  • State’s public pensions rest on solid financial foundation
  • Teacher retirement fund bounces back after losses
  • State agrees to kill teacher health fee
  • Nationwide:
  • Hundreds to Rally in Front of Veterans Integrated Services Network (VISN) Headquarters to Protest Discriminatory Practices Against VA Employees
  • Strapped state pension funds take scalpel to COLAs for relief
  • US public pension funding dips on market volatility
  • Out-of-State:
  • State Politicians and the Public Pension Cookie Jar
  • General:
  • Do Republicans want to destroy public-sector jobs?
  • Forum: Public Sector Inc., results tagged “pension reform”  read more…

via Texans for Secure Retirement.

Tulare County fire personnel approve contract | Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register | visaliatimesdelta.com

Most of Tulare County’s full-time firefighters are the latest county employees to have nearly three years of step pay increases unfrozen in their next union contract.

The 75 captains and lieutenants who comprise the Tulare County Professional Firefighters Association voted to approve their new, two-year labor contract with the county on June 1.

Last week, the county Board of Supervisors approved the contract, which will take effect Aug. 1.

Since August 2009, step pay increases have been frozen for the firefighters and other county employees because of the county’s financial problems.

But last month, the supervisors lifted the freezes in the new labor contract for employees represented by the Government Lawyers Association of Workers, representing 85 prosecutors, public defenders and other lawyers working for county Child Support Services and the Health and Human Services Agency. Board members also decided to lift the freezes for 530 unrepresented employees, which includes non-elected department heads, assistant department heads, managers and senior county Fire Department leaders.

“For the last couple of years, we’ve understood the economical situation the county has been in. We’ve done our best to help,” said Capt. David Vasquez, president of the Firefighter’s Association.

Step increases are a series of raises that new county employees receive over the course of their first few years of employments.

Fire Chief Joe Garcia said that in his department, those step increases – sometimes called “merit” increases — usually occur over the first four years of employment.

“It’s tough, considering the step increases and merit salary raises account for about 15 percent of their paychecks,” once all the pay raises take effect, he said.

“It’s been rough, especially for some folks with families, who were kind of under the crush financially. But they worked through it,” Vasquez said.

“We’ve been lucky compared to other fire departments that took cuts, that lost persons,” he said.

“That’s a great victory on the part of the county, being able to do that for them,” Garcia said of lifting the pay freezes.  read more…

via Tulare County fire personnel approve contract | Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register | visaliatimesdelta.com.

90 percent of Chicago teachers authorize strike – CBS News

90 percent of Chicago teachers authorize strike

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CHICAGO — Teachers in the nation’s third-largest school district voted overwhelmingly to authorize the first strike in 25 years if their union and the city cannot reach a deal on a contract this summer — signaling just how badly the relationship between teachers and Chicago school officials has deteriorated, union officials said Monday.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis announced the result of last week’s balloting — nearly 90 percent of its 26,502 members voted to authorize a strike —and called it “an indictment of the state of the relationship between the management of CPS and its largest labor force members.” State law requires 75 percent approval.

Teachers are upset that Mayor Rahm Emanuel canceled last year’s raise and that they’re being asked to work longer days without what they consider to be an adequate pay increase. Lewis said other key issues include class size and resources.

A strike wouldn’t be called until the beginning of the next school year, but union leaders could do so without another vote. They say holding the vote now instead of later gives the union added leverage at the bargaining table. It also allowed 1,500 retiring teachers to vote.

“Our members … were loud, serious and clear,” Lewis said. “We want a contract that gives Chicago students the school they deserve. So we call on CPSs to take this process seriously and negotiate with us in good faith with an eye on the real prize, our children.”

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard issued a statement saying it was “a shame” the union took the vote before an independent fact-finder presents recommendations on several contract issues next month and that he’s “disappointed that the union leadership would rush their members to vote for a strike before having the complete information on the table.”

Lewis said the fact-finder’s report will deal with only a handful of issues, and “we have an entire contract to negotiate.”

District spokeswoman Becky Carroll has said that once the report comes out, both sides will have 15 days to accept or reject it, and the union will have 30 days to decide whether or not to strike. The last Chicago teachers strike was in 1987, and lasted 19 days.

Much of the teachers’ frustration has centered on Emanuel, who rescinded a 4 percent raise last year and then tried to go around the union in his push for longer school days by asking teachers at individual schools to waive the union contract to work more hours. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board subsequently blocked Emanuel’s negotiations with schools.

He still was able to lengthen the school day for children to 7 hours, starting this fall, without the union’s approval.

Emanuel ignored reporters’ questions Monday about the strike authorization. Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said the public schools cannot afford a strike.

“At a time when our graduation rates and college enrollments are at record highs — two successes in which our teachers played an integral role — we cannot halt the momentum with a strike,” she said. “Our teachers deserve a raise, but our kids don’t deserve a strike and taxpayers cannot afford to pay for 30 percent raises.”

The district has proposed a five-year deal that guarantees teachers a 2 percent pay raise in the first year and lengthens by 10 percent the amount of time teachers must spend at school, from 7 hours to 7 hours and 40 minutes. The union wants a two-year deal that reduces class size and calls for teachers to receive a 24 percent pay raise in the first year and a 5 percent pay raise in the second year.

Chicago public school students have the shortest school day — 5 hours and 45 minutes — among the nation’s 50 largest districts, according to a 2007 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality — part of the reason Emanuel moved to lengthen it.

But the Chicago Teachers Union said that report did not track actual classroom time and insisted the amount of instruction time was on par with other districts.

___

via 90 percent of Chicago teachers authorize strike – CBS News.

WJBD Radio

Another union contract has been approved with the City of Centralia. The Council approved a new contract with the operating engineers union at Monday’s City Council meeting.

City Manager Dan Ramey says both sides came into an agreement Monday, and says the major changes with the new contract is insurance costs. He says the city is paying $17,000 per employee on average right now. He states this will change.  “The city right now is paying about $17,000 per employee on average. They’re going to their own operating engineers, which will be slightly less than $10,000 per year. It will also take off the city’s cost for dental and any life insurance. So we would not be paying that”, said Ramey.

Ramey says union leaders can get their part of the contracts ratified by next week, and can meet with their insurance representative by the following week in order go on their own insurance by July 1st. He states this will save the city $300,000 a year, and $1.2 million over the next four-years.

Other changes to the contract include the clause of seniority in which the old contract stated that anyone in the union can bump anyone on seniority. Ramey felt this was an unfair clause.  “If you have a certified person who is licensed and can get bumped, I thought an electrician or mechanic can get bumped also on the whole thing. So they agreed to take those items out of the contract”, said Ramey.

Other changes to the new contract include setting a limit of 100-hours in gained comp time instead of unlimited hours, and up to four-days off for bereavement per employee.

Ramey says while the operating engineers contract has passed, the city is still in negotiations with the Police Department and Telecommunicators. He says both parties will be meeting again next week.

via WJBD Radio.

Jefferson Parish school officials, teachers union hold first meeting since protest | NOLA.com

Five days after the Jefferson Parish School Board refused to extend the teachers union contract past June 30, the two sides begin negotiations Monday on a new agreement. Meladie Munch, president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, said her 11-member executive committee met with the system’s three-member team for about two hours at the school system’s central office in Harvey and will meet again Thursday.

Brett Duke, The Times-Picayune

Meladie Munch, president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, speaks at last week’s volatile Jefferson Parish School Board meeting

“We had some preliminary discussions, we set some more times (to meet) and we will move forward from there,” Munch said. Asked about the specifics of the talks, she said, “We agreed we would not disclose what was said in the session.”

Schools Superintendent James Meza did not attend the meeting but said it was productive. “I think today was one of establishing ground rules and reaffirming that the board is not considering the current contract and wants to start with a fresh slate,” he said.

About two-thirds of the system’s 3,400 teachers are members of the union. An additional 600 to 700 support workers also belong, although they do not have collective bargaining rights.

The union’s current three-year contract with the School Board expires June 30. To teachers’ dismay, the board voted Wednesday night against extending the contract, which was a routine practice in years past. Board members said it is in direct conflict with the state’s new education reforms and Jefferson’s reorganization plan and new student-centered philosophy.

The union had asked the board to adopt contract provisions that are not in conflict with state law, such as rules covering planning time, duty and extracurricular activities. But the board voted 5-3 against it, saying it wanted to begin the talks from scratch.

That infuriated teachers, who packed the board’s meeting room at Bonnabel Magnet Academy High School in Kenner to voice their anger. The protest spilled onto the courtyard and the parking lot, where teachers tried to block opposing School Board members leaving the campus.

Munch said her group was disappointed with the board’s decision and will “work harder to make sure to build a new contract in a timely fashion. “Our teachers and school employees need to know what to expect when they return to their students and classrooms. The working conditions of our teachers are the learning conditions of our students.”

Munch said she wants to see a new pact in place by June 30, or, at the latest, by the end of July when many teachers must return to work.

Board President Mark Jacobs said he and the rest of the board value the system’s teaching corps but that student achievement must be the top consideration in carving out a new deal. “I don’t think anything can deter our resolve to improve academic success in the classroom,” he said.

. . . . . . .

via Jefferson Parish school officials, teachers union hold first meeting since protest | NOLA.com.

Our Opinion: Some state jobs should be non-union – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register

It goes without saying that labor unions exist as a check on management. But what happens when management is part of the union?

At its current rate, Illinois state government is on a fast track to find out the answer to that question. As things stand now, nearly 96 percent of state government employees are members of collective bargaining units. Some state leaders, including Gov. Pat Quinn, believe that figure could soon reach 99 percent if state law is not changed to exclude some types of employees, including legislative liaisons, deputy directors and others who have jobs exempt from protection created in the Rutan Supreme Court decision, from union membership.

The Illinois House already has approved a bill that would do so. The Illinois Senate did not vote on the bill (SB 1556) because Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, knew it did not have the votes to pass in the waning hours of the spring legislative session. We hope enough state senators reconsider their positions over the summer to make this a viable bill to pass during the November veto session (or, better yet, if and when the legislature returns to Springfield to vote on pension reform this summer).

Our support for this bill is not because we favor weakening AFSCME or denying rights to state employees. We don’t. But a basic understanding of the jobs in question and, especially, of the system by which the state’s constitutional officers work with the legislative branch proves the need for these exemptions.

Of foremost concern is preserving the right of the constitutional officers, especially the governor, to choose the best people to translate and advance policies to members of the General Assembly. This is what legislative liaisons do. How effectively they perform their jobs can have a big impact on how successful a governor, attorney general, treasurer, comptroller or secretary of state can be in getting their policies implemented through the legislature.

With legislative liaisons protected by union contract, a candidate for governor who defeats Quinn in 2014 would not be able to install his or her chosen people to work the legislature in favor of the policies by which he or she won election.

The same liaisons who advocated for a Quinn policy a few months earlier could suddenly be promoting the opposite message. That’s neither a great sales strategy nor a system that allows the will of the people who elected the new governor to be enacted in the most efficient way possible.  read more…

via Our Opinion: Some state jobs should be non-union – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register.