30,000 Ohio State Workers To Get First Raise Since 2008

State employees will get their first pay raises since 2008 under a new contract approved by the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association and preliminarily by the state.

The cost to taxpayers of raises and benefits will be about $295 million over three years, according to the state Office of Budget and Management.

The three-year contact gives about 30,000 unionized state employees raises of 2.5 percent annually, holds the line on health care, and gives full and part-time employees one-time payments of $750 and $375, respectively.

The benefits package in the new contract will remain the same as the existing pact, with the state paying 85 percent and employees 15 percent. Out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles and co-pays will go up in the final year of the three-year agreement.

About 83 percent of union members ratified the new agreement in quiet statewide voting process that concluded last Friday.

The Controlling Board, a legislative body which approves state spending, heard a presentation Monday about the contract from the Kasich administration, but took no action. The contract will take effect automatically unless the board rejects the pact in 30 days, which is not expected to happen. The old contract expired Feb. 28, but was extended by mutual agreement of both sides.

Negotiations with OCSEA typically set the pattern for contract agreements with other unions. The Ohio State Troopers Association represents 1,800 employees, the Ohio Education Association has 660 members, and the Fraternal Order of Police, represents 580 employees. All the contracts expire June 30.

Those unions have not finalized new contracts, but if they settle for the same deal as OCSEA, the three-year bill to taxpayers would be about $556 million, OBM estimates.

The new OCSEA contract replaces the old agreement, which was the product of an unprecedented extension of the previous pact and was approved in late 2011.

“Neither side got everything they wanted, but we believe it’s a fair contract,” said union President Christopher Mabe. “Our negotiating team did a good job of ensuring wage gains weren’t lost by takeaways in other areas of the contract like health care. I think we struck a good balance.”

“Ohio works best when it works together and the agreement that the state has reached with employees — and the constructive, amicable way in which it was reached — is testament to that,” Gov. John Kasich’s spokesman Rob Nichols said. “The agreement is fair to workers as well as to taxpayers and will allow Ohio to continue working harder and harder to serve the people of our great state.”

The 2011 extension, the first after Kasich took office, included no base-pay raises for three years, which means that the last general pay increase for workers came two contracts ago, in July 2008, when employees got a 3.5 percent pay hike.

Sgt. Jeremy Mendenhall, president of the Ohio State Troopers Association, has been waiting for a deal with the OCSEA so negotiations could begin over a new contract for his 1,800 troopers, sergeants, dispatchers and electronic technicians.

But a 2.5-percent annual pay raise over three years received by the OCSEA would be unacceptable to troopers, he said.

From The Columbus Dispatch

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