AUGUSTA — The largest union representing state employees filed a labor complaint Tuesday accusing the Mills administration of ignoring a legislative mandate and a legal agreement to update a market salary study that’s being used to compare salaries to the private sector.

The union wants the administration to use the study to help close a pay gap it says is contributing to high vacancy rates in the public sector workforce.

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 in Augusta last September. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Maine Service Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents over 13,000 workers, is asking the Maine Labor Relations Board to order the administration to  update the study as mandated by state law and four collective bargaining agreements.

The union accused the administration of failing to bargain in good faith and “dragging its feet for years” in implementing the 2020 study, which found that state employees are paid 15% less on average than their private sector counterparts.

“The administration willfully disregarded this legislative mandate,” Tom Feeley, the union’s general counsel, said in a written statement. “Given that the administration ignored the legislative mandate expressly requiring that the completed review include a recalculation of the market salary data, the administration failed to make a good faith effort to complete the review.”

The administration was required to update the study as part of the biennial budget and the union says recent collective bargaining agreements also required the 2020 study to be completed and implemented.


A spokesperson for the Department of Administrative and Financial Services pushed back against the union claims, saying the administration has increased base wages for state workers by 24% to 29% over the last five years. Those increases are equal to the total increases from the preceding 16 years, it said.

DAFS spokesperson Sharon Huntley said the union complaint, “rests on faulty legal claims and factual inaccuracies” and ignores steps the administration has already taken to close the pay gap.

“The Mills Administration is committed to ongoing improvement in compensation and benefits for our valued State of Maine workforce, while being mindful of our fiscal responsibility,” Huntley said. “Repeated, factually inaccurate claims do nothing to advance that goal but instead, only serve to hamper our progress. The Administration is committed to good faith bargaining with the union based on accurate facts and our mutual interest in providing state employees with fair and competitive compensation and benefits.

In a report dated Jan. 31, the administration argued that the 2020 study is out-of-date and proposed a new study, which would be complete by September.

The administration just concluded a difficult round of contract negotiations, which required mediation after the state and the employees union were hundreds of millions of dollars apart in terms of employee compensation.

The union ratified four contracts in December that included a 6% raise in January, an $800 payment expected in February and an additional 3% pay bump in July. It also included a child care reimbursement of up to $2,000 for certain workers, increased mileage reimbursement and increased longevity pay after five years of employment.

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