Raises, PERA, and more: 2018 legislative session one for the books

This has been one of the busiest and hardest legislative sessions for WINS in recent memory. Since January, members have been hard at work emailing, calling, testifying, and directly lobbying legislators about issues that matter to all state employees.

From PERA, to raises, to biweekly pay, WINS members made their voices heard on behalf of all state employees.

Keep reading for a summary of all the legislation that impacted state workers this year. This is a long post, so here’s a list of what’s below. Click any link to jump directly to that section:

Raises

Perhaps the best news to come out of this session is the approval of the 3% across-the-board, base-building raise. This is a straight raise, not tied to merit pay, and it would not have been possible without the hard work of WINS members who called the Joint Budget Committee and directly lobbied their Senators and Representatives on Lobby Day. We all know state workers are lagging behind the private sector in terms of wages. While 3% does not close the entire 6% average wage gap, it gets us halfway there. Raises will go into effect in July paychecks.

Additionally, after 4 years of work, direct care staff at both the Colorado Mental Health Institutes at Ft. Logan and Pueblo will see additional raises aimed at addressing wage compression in their facilities. These raises will move workers to the midpoint of the salary range and have a formula for years of service on top of that. WINS members across DHS and other departments will continue pushing for solutions to the recruitment and retention problems caused by the state’s broken pay system.

PERA

SB200 Modifications to PERA was hands down the hardest bill we had on our plate this year. While it didn’t end up being exactly the bill we wanted, we did get some wins out of it.

First and foremost, we were able to secure $225 million ongoing each year until PERA is fully funded. That specific piece was the impetus for us to work ourselves ragged getting something through this year. If we had waited until next year to pass something, that money would have been off the table. It would have been made up out of members’ pockets and that was a no-go for us.

Employee contributions did go up 2%, but the Senate version of the bill called for a 3% increase. However, we were able push back enough so that contributions will increase incrementally over 3 years instead of all at once, so .66% yearly over the next 3 years. We will work this into the raises we fight for every year in order for employees to avoid falling backwards in pay.

We were also able to move the COLA up from the suggested amount of 1.25% to 1.5% ensuring current and future retirees also don’t fall behind. We also have an auto-adjust mechanism in there that will decrease or increase contributions based on PERA solvency.

Some of the less fortunate pieces of the bill are that the retirement age has been increased to 64 for new employees, the Highest Average Salary calculation has gone up to 5 years (which is still better than the 7 years that was in the Senate bill). The Defined Contribution option was expanded into higher education institutions and municipal governments and the COLA suspension is 2 years for current retirees/3 years for those who have not yet retired.

You can read the entire breakdown of SB-200 and the timeline of the bill here.

We also made some serious headway on retirement age for DOC Correctional Officers. Department of Corrections officer series new hires will be included in the state patrol’s retirement plan. This will mean new officers will work fewer years to reach retirement. They will pay more into PERA for this benefit.

We realize correctional officers are not the only DOC group or division who should be included in the plan, and that there needs to be a mechanism for existing staff to transition into that plan. Our hope is that this will also help recruit and retain new officers to help ease the short-staffing burden on current COs in the facilities. This was the only deal available this year, and it gets a foot in the door to expand the plan in coming sessions, if membership grows and is willing to fight for expansion.

Biweekly or semi-monthly pay

In 2015, the legislature gave approval to move the state to semi-monthly pay periods, meaning state workers would be paid twice each month. As the Department of Personnel and Administration began the process of implementing this law they discovered many other states that made the same move eventually ended up moving to biweekly pay, or paying workers every two weeks. The state already has some employees on a biweekly pay schedule while most were still monthly. DPA needed a bill to change semi-monthly pay to bi-weekly.

DPA is working to evaluate the capabilities of the HR Works system to accommodate the current system of monthly and biweekly. They don’t expect any state-wide changes until mid 2019. However, individual departments and divisions may transition to biweekly provided they can do it without any money from the state. DPA will be communicating directly with employees about what will happen now that biweekly will not take effect on a state-wide scale.

2018-SouthernWINSmemberswLeroyGarcia

Members from Southern Colorado with Senator Leroy Garcia

Medical Benefits After State Employee Work-related Death

You may not have known that prior to SB18-148 if a state employee died in a work-related incident, their dependents would only continue to be covered under that employee’s benefits for one month following their death. Now families will be granted a year of medical and dental coverage should they lose a loved one in such a way.

Prohibition of Paid Union Activity by Public Employees

SB18-175 not only would have prevented WINS stewards, employee management committee representatives, partnership representatives, and other leaders from participating in union-related business at work, but it would have also nullified any union contract that allowed for such time usage. WINS members joined forces with our brothers and sisters in other public sector unions to testify against this bill. While it did make it out of the Senate, it died in the House. We can expect similar attacks to happen in the future as public sector unions across the country face threats.

DHS Employee Discipline Harm to Vulnerable Persons

We worked in partnership with the Department of Human Services on this bill to ensure two things: 1. That employees are guaranteed due process when they are faced with abuse accusations and 2. That employees who are found guilty of abuse will not continue to have access to the vulnerable populations that DHS serves.

Moving forward

PERA, pay and benefits have always been the cornerstone of our legislative work. Starting today we need to ramp up on these objectives for the next legislative session. In the coming weeks and months look for opportunities to get involved in department-based discussions, candidate endorsement interviews, election advocacy, and our upcoming constitutional convention. In order to ensure we are going into the next session as strong as possible, contribute to COPE today to build the war chest for political accountability. If you know someone who needs to join, forward them this email with this link to join.

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