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August 28, 2012 | last updated August 28, 2012 10:44 am

MSEA amends complaint over jobs

The Maine State Employees Association, responding to a Maine Labor Relations Board ruling on Aug. 6, has filed an amended complaint detailing when and how Gov. Paul LePage allegedly violated terms of the labor contract that expired last Sept. 30.

The amended complaint, filed a day before an Aug. 28 deadline, asks the MLRB to provide temporary relief pending a final decision on whether LePage is within his rights to restructure or subcontract work performed by unionized state employees, without bargaining, while the state is negotiating a new labor agreement with the 14,000-member MSEA. As a remedy, MSEA asks the labor board to order the state to "commence bargaining in good faith" on jobs that might be restructured or subcontracted out.

The LePage administration has argued that MSEA waived its bargaining rights with respect to "contracting out" or "restructuring" under the contract that expired last fall, making both activities allowable under a status quo proviso in that contract. In the amended complaint, however, MSEA lawyer Timothy Belcher asserts the "contracting out article" expired with the labor agreement and says the union must be notified and given the opportunity to negotiate any proposed contracting out or restructuring of state union employee jobs.

Both sides earlier had characterized the Aug. 6 ruling as a victory, with one of the state's lawyers asserting that the labor board had rejected the union's main argument that any action taken by the state to reorganize or contract out work done by state union employees without bargaining is an unlawful action.

But the board also allowed MSEA to amend its complaint and resubmit it, giving explicit guidance that the new complaint must provide specific examples to support the original's generalized allegations, as well as demonstrate how alleged actions by the LePage administration represent "a change from established practice."

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