AUGUSTA – The Maine State Employees Association filed a complaint Monday alleging that state negotiators have violated the law in contract talks.

The complaint, filed with the Maine Labor Relations Board, says state officials walked out on bargaining at a critical time, tried to bypass the bargaining process by pursuing legislation, and proposed concessions for the MSEA that it did not ask of other unions.

The union says the state violated provisions of law that cover good faith bargaining, protections against discrimination and coercion of employees.

The sides have been negotiating since April, and the contract covering 10,000 state workers expired June 30. Both sides agreed to go to mediation in August and talks are continuing, said Tim Belcher, general counsel for the union. He said it was unusual for the union to file such a complaint.

“It’s a reflection of just how poorly we think things have gone,” he said. “We absolutely need to get things back on track.”

Adrienne Bennett, spokeswoman for Gov. Paul LePage, said the complaint continues a pattern that started last week with an allegation about the state’s interest in hiring subcontractors.

“Clearly, this is a 21-page press release,” she said of the complaint. “We anticipate more accusations from them next week.”

The state will have a chance to respond to the complaint, and a hearing will be held to consider the merits of the union’s allegations, Belcher said. The union is asking the Labor Relations Board to require the state to post a notice acknowledging that it has violated the law and to pay attorney fees related to the prosecution of the complaint.

The complaint outlines some proposals made so far by the state, including:

• The elimination of the requirement that nonunion workers pay a portion of union dues. The issue was debated by lawmakers this spring and was held over for consideration next year.

• Allowing the state to stop collecting union dues through payroll deduction.

• Allowing the state to stop paying union officials when they are on union business.

• Restricting employees’ access to personnel files.

• Limiting eligibility for benefits for child care and elder care.

The complaint says the administration reached agreements with the Maine State Troopers Association, the Maine State Law Enforcement Association and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees without asking those unions to make the same types of concessions.

The complaint also outlines what the union sees as an anti-union atmosphere, and says LePage has made statements “attacking labor unions in general, public employees, and the Maine State Employees Association in particular.”

Bennett said the state is trying to work with the union.

“We have sat down with them in good faith,” she said.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]


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