Politics & Government
10:05 am
Thu August 1, 2013

Public employee unions begin contract talks with state

It was smiles and handshakes Wednesday as public employee unions opened contract talks with the state. The current contract expires at the end of 2014, but the new contracts need to be ready by the end of this year -- just in time for Gov. Rick Snyder to put together his next budget proposal.

Jan Winter is the governor’s top negotiator. She says the state is looking for ways to get employees more engaged in decisions that affect how they do their jobs.

“At the same time, we’re looking at all the operational considerations and requirements in all of the collective bargaining agreements,” Winter said. “And working jointly to address those, so that we’ve got the most-efficient government possible.”

UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada says one of the union’s goals is getting state workers to play a bigger part in decisions that affect their jobs.

“If we want to re-invent Michigan, then we need to continue to change the culture of the state. That means that labor and management need to come to the table in a different way,” Estrada said.

Employee health care costs are expected to be part of the bargaining. The two sides disagree on whether Michigan’s new right-to-work law applies to civil service employees. But they’ve agreed to keep that out of their discussions until after courts rule on the question.