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October 30 2008

Special TEA Meeting on Furloughs

Thursday, 11/6, KSC 3D/E

The TEA Council of Representatives will host a Special Meeting on Thurs., 11/6, 3D/E, to discuss the County's furlough proposal.  At their meeting last week, the Council members voted to schedule this Special TEA Meeting to discuss the proposal and gather your input.  The meeting location is smaller than the 8th floor meeting room (which unfortunately is unavailable), so please be considerate of tight meeting space. 

King County's Furlough Proposal

The King County Coalition of Unions recently bargained a tentative agreement with King County regarding furloughs.  Here is the text of that agreement:

King County 2009 Mandated Leave Tentative Agreement   10/27/08


WHEREAS the County is experiencing a financial emergency,
WHEREAS, effective January 1, 2009, the County will eliminate hundreds of positions;
WHEREAS a majority of the County's collective bargaining agreements provide for yearly increases based on 90% of the September to September Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers Consumer Price index (CPI);
WHEREAS the CPI has historically produced wage increases of between 2% and 3%;
WHEREAS, as the result of the national financial crisis, the County's revenues are significantly restricted while, simultaneously, the CPI will dictate a cost of living adjustment established at 4.88% for 2009;
WHEREAS substantially shutting down all but essential County services for ten days would produce significant savings and preserve employees' COLA, merit and step pay;
WHEREAS the parties will through this agreement help to preserve essential services and reduce the layoffs necessary during 2009.
NOW THEREFORE, King County and the undersigned unions agree as follows.

  1. The County will substantially shut down most of its facilities on the following days the during the 2009 calendar year requiring mandated leave by all eligible County employees:
    Friday, January 2, 2009
    Friday, February 13, 2009
    Friday, April 10, 2009
    Friday, May 22, 2009
    Friday, June 19, 2009
    Monday, July 6, 2009
    Friday, September 4, 2009
    Monday, October 12, 2009
    Wednesday, November 25, 2009
    Thursday, December 24, 2009
  2. Employees that regularly work 80 hours in a two-week pay period will take the above-referenced days off, unpaid, to the extent that they are regularly scheduled to work on those days. To the extent that one or more of the above-referenced days falls on a regularly scheduled day off, the affected employee will schedule alternate furlough day(s) such that the amount of furlough equates to an 80 hour furlough.  Employees that regularly work less than 80 hours in a two week pay period will be furloughed on a prorated basis. Regular holiday pay will not be impacted.
  3. Employees in a position earning $16.92 per hour or less during the pay period of a mandated leave day may, for that mandated leave day, use their vacation leave or accept donated vacation leave to cover their pay for that day.
  4. With approval from management, employees may voluntarily donate vacation leave to employees in a position earning $16.92 per hour or less or below during the pay period of a mandated leave day for the sole purpose of helping these employees preserve their pay during the mandated leave. Unused donated leave will remain with the donee and will not revert back to the donor.
  5. Employees enrolled in the PERS 1 or PERS 2 program who submit letters of intent to retire to the County during calendar years 2009 or 2010 may, for their mandated leave days, use vacation leave. Should any employee who submits such notice not retire during 2009 or 2010, an additional amount of vacation, equal to the number of vacation days that were used for mandated leave in 2009, will be deducted from their leave banks at the end of the respective calendar year.
  6. Employees may not perform County work while on a mandated leave day or work additional hours during the workweek to make up for the mandated leave time. Mandatory unpaid leave during the County's shut-down days is non-compensable time under the Washington Minimum Wage Act (WMWA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and will not count as hours worked towards the overtime threshold; provided that unique issues will be dealt with pursuant to paragraph 11.
  7. FLSA exempt employees may not work time in excess of a standard schedule during the weeks that contain mandated leave days. FLSA exempt employees must record the days and hours they worked and the days and hours they did not work during pay periods including a mandatory leave day.
  8. Vacation and sick leave accruals will continue during mandated leave days. Where an employee is denied vacation time as the result of the Department's necessity to schedule mandated leave time, the employee may carry over vacation in excess of the cap.
  9. Medical, dental, vision and any other insured benefits will be unaffected by the mandated leave except where an employee is on unpaid status for 30 consecutive days or more.
  10. Mandatory unpaid leave will not count as a break in service and shall not affect seniority or step advancement. Probationary periods will not be impacted in that mandatory leave days will not add to the length of probation.
  11. The applicable union and departmental management will meet as necessary to discuss any other issues related to the implementation of the mandatory leave days, with the goal that all eligible employees will serve equitable mandated leaves. Discussions may include how to implement the mandated leave for employees on alternative work schedules or part-time employees.
  12. With approval from management, employees will be permitted to take additional unpaid leave beyond the established mandatory leave days. FLSA- exempt employees must take voluntary unpaid leave in full workweek increments. Hourly employees may take voluntary unpaid leave in hourly increments. Supervisors and managers are strongly encouraged to approve these requests unless operational needs preclude them from doing so. However, unpaid leave days should not be granted if it will result in the need for another employee to work overtime to perform the duties that would otherwise be completed by the employee taking the unpaid leave day(s) or otherwise result in net loss of County revenue.
  13. For signatory unions with contracts expired or expiring in 2009, the County will agree to extend the COLA, merit and step wage provisions through 2010.
  14. To the extent this agreement conflicts with any provisions of collective bargaining agreements or any County procedures or guidelines, this agreement controls.
  15. By October 30, 2008, the County will produce to the unions a list of furlough ineligible classifications and work units within the Executive Branch. Furloughs for employees, classifications and work units within the Executive Branch will be for no less time and under circumstances not more favorable than the employees furloughed pursuant to this Agreement. The County may make minor adjustments to the October 30, 2008 list as needed for error, emergent circumstances, or King County Council action.
  16. The County agrees to provide notice to all impacted County employees about the 2009 mandatory leave as soon as practicable.
  17. The County acknowledges and recognizes that as a result of the shut-downs, less work will be performed and that certain delays and/or reductions in service may result. Work expectations shall be commensurate with the reduced schedule.
  18. The parties agree that employees furloughed in 2009 will receive the equivalent of the time on furlough in furlough replacement time. One half of the time will be awarded in 2010 and one half in 2011, unless the County is in an officially declared and Council sanctioned financial emergency. Any unused furlough replacement time will expire at the end of the calendar year in which it was provided.
  19. The County commits that, with respect to the undersigned parties, these furloughs will avoid additional 2009 layoffs that would otherwise have been necessary. In 2009, however, the County may need to layoff further employees as a result of changed or unforeseen circumstances or seasonal business needs.
  20. The parties acknowledge that all parties have fulfilled their obligations to engage in collective bargaining over the subjects contained in this agreement.
  21. The parties acknowledge that this agreement is subject to approval by the King County Council.
  22. Any dispute regarding the interpretation and/or application of this Agreement shall be handled pursuant to the terms of the applicable Union's grievance procedure; provided that if more than one Union has the same or similar dispute, the grievances shall be consolidated.

Please keep in mind that a Coalition Agreement is not binding on TEA.  As far as we know, the Coalition did not attempt to avert a furlough altogether which does not speak well of their advocacy for their members, but Executive Sims has apparently convinced them that they will only see more layoffs if they do not agree with this proposal. -RB

Message from TEA Board Members

Apparently the Teamsters are taking a different position on this issue from TEA. For those of you who heard directly or indirectly from the Teamsters about the County's furlough plans, we want to dispel the information they provided about your legal rights. The Teamsters have suggested that such a reduction is a management right and that our contracts offer no protection against such furloughs.  We have checked with our legal counsel and this is simply not true.

Our counsel reminds us that through our successful bargaining efforts we have acquired language that provides strong protection against any reduction in force.  Both the Wastewater and Transit contracts contain unique clauses that require that the County bring contracted work back in house before any individuals who can perform such work are laid off.  This language may not provide a 100% guarantee against any single layoff but it comes pretty close to it.  As part of the trade-off for permitting the County to contract out some of our work, we received a commitment to bring that work back in house.  As a practical matter, we do not believe in the face of this contract language that the County can do either "furloughs" or layoffs for our TEA bargaining units.

Our counsel also notes that the single day reductions that County is discussing are not even legal for salaried employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act because of the statutory guarantee of the full week's salary.

Although we will work collaboratively with the County whenever possible, we will not do so at our members' expense.  We intend to aggressively enforce our existing contract and our legal rights to the full extent of the law. We are proud of our professional representation and the resources that they provide.  If the County presents a furlough proposal to TEA we will sit down and listen to them but we will not allow them to unilaterally impose a reduction in our bargained for salaries.

We will continue to work with our professional counsel to acquire and enforce the best possible contract even when County management wants us to give in. 

Wastewater is in mediation with tentative dates in December and will probably go into next year before we are done.  Transit is awaiting arbitration results and has begun bargaining the next contract (2008-2010).  Transit workers provide essential public services (which is why they have arbitration rights) and may be further protected from furlough by that status.

Many members in the King County Coalition of Unions were surprised to see that they had "agreed" to conditions in the paper this morning.  They will likely be asked to vote on the Tentative Agreement in the next few days.  We do not know what the outcome will be if they fail to ratify the agreement, but there is a lot of time between now and December 1 when the budget must be approved.

Meantime, we understand that the King County Council is working on its own budget proposals, and we have no idea what impact those will have.

All of which is to say, we know many of you are worried about the potential for layoff.  The County has not approached TEA with a request to bargain the furlough proposal yet.  When they do, we believe that our ability to resist a furlough is very high.

If there are provisions in the agreement that you would like to see TEA agree to (such as voluntary furlough or donation of vacation time, for example) then the board would like to hear from you.

A Special Meeting is being held November 6th to discuss these issues and perhaps we will know more by then.  We also promised you some text you could consider when writing your individual council members.  Here's an example of what Roger Browne sent to Council Member Phillips and Councilmember Gosset:

We know you consider employees to be an important County resource.  Some layoffs are inevitable.  Our area of responsibility is shrinking as areas incorporate. We have reduced the number of parks we must maintain, and so forth.  The current plan which assumes all represented staff will accept a furlough is misguided, however.  Several are fully funded by non-cx revenue streams, as you well know.  I urge the council to use its influence, however subtle, to move the budget proposal in a realistic direction.  In particular, the ABT program which won't pay for itself for more than 15 years, and maybe not at all, could be delayed to help close the gap in the current budget.  This would give us all more breathing room to find a well considered plan that all unions and taxpayers could support.  Another project which could be reconsidered is one that will replace desktop computers with small communication boxes.  The costs of that conversion have been greatly exaggerated to appear to have a benefit.  We believe more analysis is needed.

It's possible that Executive Sim's proposal, which surely is at least partly theatre designed to pressure Olympia into change taxing provisions, may work.  Olympia has a rather large deficit of it's own to reconcile and perhaps our interests overlap.  However, the emotional cost to employees that received pink slips, and those that wonder how they are going to put food on the table or pay their mortgage with two weeks less pay next year is very high if this is mostly for show.  At the heart of this issue, TEA believes and I suspect most unions believe that employees should not suffer to make up for bad budgeting and investment decisions by the Executive when other alternatives exist.

Thanks for all you do, for the employees and for the citizens of King County

Note: Another possible target for project cancellation is the ferry district which effectively competes with the State ferry operations.  Thanks to TEA member Mike Sands for spotting that one!  No doubt there are many more.  Keep your spirits up!!  We'll communicate more when we know more.
-Roger Browne

Looking Ahead: November Meetings

November  5 - TEA Board, 12-1, KSC 4G
November  6 - Special Meeting - KC Furlough Proposal, 3D/E, 12-1
November  6 - TEA Transit Negotiations, 1:30-4:30
November 12 - TEA Board, 12-1, KSC 4G
November 19 - TEA Monthly Member Meeting, 12-1, KSC, 8th Flr Conf Rm
November 25 - TEA Grievance Committee Meeting, 9-10, KSC, 4G


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TEA Board

  Roger Browne, President
  Adé Franklin, Vice President
  Ken Madden, Secretary 
  Terry Browne, Treasurer
  Eric Davison, Wastewater Bargaining Chair
  Jerry Williams, Transit Bargaining Chair
  John Phillips, Council of Reps. Chair