The Business of the Union, the Business of the State
Whenever I read about arrangements such as Paul Edward Parker describes at the end of his Projo piece about state worker overtime, I wonder how polluted the public budget is with similar tricks and instances of advantage-taking:
One area that [Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals Director Ellen R. Nelson] hopes to address is a contract provision for union business. Union officials who also work for the state can be scheduled for weeks off, with pay, to handle union-related duties, such as meeting with other workers. But those union officials can also put in for extra shifts that week and be paid overtime, at the same time the state may be paying someone else overtime to cover the union official’s regular shift.
Nelson did not offer a solution, saying she wants to hear suggestions from the unions.
One suggestion that I would make is to declare that union business is not public business, and union duties ought to be financed via union dues. (At the very least, there would be a reduction in the money that unions would have on-hand to throw into the political ring.)
I also noticed, in the piece, an echo of a point that I’ve made before:
One reason state administrators find overtime more attractive than hiring additional workers is the benefits package that state workers receive.
“We have absolutely one of the richest benefit plans around,” [Department of Administration Director Beverly E.] Najarian said.
[Rhode Island Council 94 Executive Director Dennis R.] Grilli countered, “I think we’re getting a fair wage and benefit package. I don’t think it’s excessive.”
Note the strategic misdirection from the union guy: Grilli doesn’t address the comparisons, merely asserts his opinion. Suffice to say that his view of fairness isn’t surprising.
Also not surprising is another one of the aforementioned tricks:
Najarian described how the employees’ shares for health insurance are calculated. For most Rhode Island state workers, it is based on a percentage of the worker’s pay. In other states, including Massachusetts, workers pay a percentage of the insurance premium.
That makes a difference because, as health-care premiums escalate, the State of Rhode Island picks up a larger share of the cost.
Najarian also said that Rhode Island state workers pay less than their counterparts in Massachusetts — or in private industry.
She said the premium for a family health-care package is $16,148. Most Rhode Island state workers contribute 2.5 percent of their pay. With an average state worker having a salary of $46,600, the employee’s share would be about $1,165.
But a survey Najarian cited showed Massachusetts workers contributing 25 percent of the premium. The same formula applied in Rhode Island would result in employees paying $4,037 each.
When multiplied by roughly 15,000 full-time workers, the difference between the two formulas would be $43 million.