September 17, 2019
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Labor board rejects complaint that LePage illegally contracted out state work, asks union for more details

Robert F. Bukaty | BDN
Robert F. Bukaty | BDN
Gov. Paul LePage

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Labor Relations Board on Monday reaffirmed an April decision to reject a complaint from Maine’s largest public employees union that alleged the LePage administration illegally hired private contractors to perform state employees’ work after the union’s contract expired last year.

But the three-member board invited the state employees union to file additional paperwork in two weeks that contains details that clarify its case.

The Maine Labor Relations Board was considering the Maine State Employees Association’s appeal of the April decision from the board’s executive director. The union argued that the LePage administration violated a state law that keeps an expired contract’s provision in effect until a new labor agreement is reached. That so-called status quo provision, the union argued, meant the Maine State Employees Association should have had the chance to bargain for work that ultimately was awarded to nonunion members.

The Maine Labor Relations Board’s executive director, Marc Ayotte, rejected the complaint in April because he found the union failed to make a valid claim that the State Employee Labor Relations Act had been violated.

In a decision issued Monday, the full three-member board rejected the union’s argument, saying the association failed to prove the LePage administration violated labor laws. The decision also noted that the union failed to frame its case clearly.

“[T]he Union’s legal theory presents a nearly impossible challenge of framing the issue so that this Board, or Maine’s public sector community more generally, can discern the answer in any given case,” the board’s decision reads.

But while the board rejected the union’s argument, it said Ayotte shouldn’t have dismissed the union’s complaint in April and invited the union to provide more details to clarify its case.

Neither Ayotte nor representatives from the Maine State Employees Association could be reached for comment late Monday.

The LePage administration welcomed the labor board’s decision as a sign it has the right to restructure state government.

“The reorganization of state agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services is critical to the administration’s mission to develop a more fiscally responsible and accountable government,” LePage’s chief of staff, John McGough, said in a statement. “This attempt by the union to delay the process is yet another short-sighted maneuver against the administration.”

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