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MailTribune.com
  • Delay over budget is holding up contract talks, union says

  • SALEM — With the Legislature and governor still negotiating over a budget, the union representing the largest share of Oregon state workers has declared an impasse in negotiations for a two-year contract.
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  • SALEM — With the Legislature and governor still negotiating over a budget, the union representing the largest share of Oregon state workers has declared an impasse in negotiations for a two-year contract.
    The state's bargainers say it can't make a firm offer until the Legislature passes a budget. That may not happen for some weeks.
    A bargainer for Local 503 of the Service Employees International Union says the action doesn't mean a strike is imminent, but the action does set up deadlines, the Salem Statesman Journal reported Tuesday.
    Both sides have a week to submit a final offer and then have a 30-day "cooling off" period before the union can strike and the state can unilaterally implement its final offer.
    "We think it's really important to protect our timeline," said Dan Smith, an Oregon State Hospital psychologist who leads the union's bargaining team.
    The current two-year contract ends at the end of the month. The two-year contracts match the state's budget period.
    The union and state have been in mediation for several weeks, and during that time either side can declare impasse, said Matt Shelby, a spokesman for the Department of Administrative Services.
    "The declaration came as a surprise," he said.
    Smith said the union and management have had the most trouble with the economic package, which includes step increases, cost-of-living changes and possible furlough days.
    Gov. John Kitzhaber has said he wanted to end furlough days for workers, who have taken them four years in a row.
    However, he didn't mention salaries or raises in announcing his proposed budget.
    Smith said declaring impasse is not uncommon.
    It happened during negotiations four years ago, although it didn't in 2011.
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