Labor board rejects union complaint against LePage

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff
Posted April 11, 2012, at 11:53 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Labor Relations Board on Wednesday dismissed the latest complaint filed by the state’s largest public employees union against Gov. Paul LePage’s administration related to bitter contract negotiations dating to last year.

The Maine State Employees Association filed the complaint Tuesday requesting that the LePage administration stop hiring private contractors to do work typically handled by the union.

The 16-page document alleges that the state is bound by contract to negotiate with the union before it hires nonmembers. The union said in its complaint that the practice deprives “bargaining unit members of that work, as well as the pay and benefits that come with that work.”

Maine law requires the state to maintain the status quo after a contract expires, which is currently the case with the MSEA. That effectively means that the state can continue to contract out or reorganize its work force to make government more efficient and effective, according to the board.

The complaint was dismissed because it failed to state a valid claim under the State Employees Labor Relations Act.

“Once again, the Maine Labor Relations Board has thrown out an unfounded complaint by this union,” John McGough, LePage’s chief of staff, said in a statement. “MSEA is desperate to find an issue to fight Governor LePage on, and this is another failed attempt to find one with any legal footing.”

The LePage administration and the MSEA, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, have been embroiled in contract negotiations that date to early last year.

Still pending before the Maine Labor Relations Board is a complaint by the MSEA that the administration has acted in bad faith during negotiations, which still have not resulted in a new collective bargaining agreement.

MSEA staff said in a statement Wednesday that the state board’s dismissal of the most recent complaint was expected but it should help expedite resolution of their pending complaint.

LePage and some allies have targeted unions — both public sector and private sector — since the Republican governor has taken office.

Although unsuccessful so far on measures that would prohibit unions from requiring dues to be collected from nonunion members, the administration has made some progress on labor issues.

The House and Senate recently approved a bill from the governor’s office that would strip the ability of independent child care providers to unionize and collectively bargain. Another bill that bans workers at the former Decoster Farm in Turner from unionizing also has won legislative approval.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/04/11/politics/maine-state-workers-union-files-complaint-against-lepage-administration/ printed on December 19, 2014