Members of the Maine Service Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, hold a lunchtime rally during a Department of Financial Services employee appreciation event Tuesday at the Buker Community Center in Augusta. About 60 people chanted while carrying signs on Capital Street Extension across a field from a large tent where the event was being held. Workers rallied for higher wages and other benefits amid an expired contract that covers nearly 13,000 state employees. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — About 60 people chanted while carrying signs Tuesday during a Department of Administrative and Financial Services “employee appreciation” event, the latest public display of unrest over an expired contract for nearly 13,000 state employees.

The members of the Maine Service Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, held the lunchtime protest on Capitol Street Extension across a field from a large tent where the event was being held at the Buker Community Center in Augusta.

Members of the Maine Service Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, members hold a lunchtime protest during a Department of Financial Services employee appreciation event Tuesday at the Buker Community Center in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“The Department of Administrative and Financial Services is having a worker appreciation day and we’re here to say, ‘thank-yous’ are great but we need higher wages and we need the class and compensation study to be completed,” said Mark Brunton of China, who serves on the MSEA-SEIU board of directors and works for Department of Health and Human Services.

State officials say they are committed to addressing the pay gap identified in a 2020 study, but remain “hundreds of millions of dollars apart” concerning the wages and benefits demands of the state’s largest public employee union. The Mills administration has requested the help of a professional mediator to resolve the contract dispute.

The union notes that September is the third month in which the state employees are working under the terms of their expired contract, even after the state government “announced it had finished the 2023 fiscal year with a $141 million surplus.”

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