OLYMPIA -- Unions for state workers have agree tentatively to cuts in wages and increases in health premiums for the next two years.
Union leaders and Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the tentative agreement, which include furloughs that will bring most wages down by 3 percent, in a hastily called press conference Tuesday afternoon. State employees will also carry the cost of any increases in health care in the coming two years, and the state share will be set at its current amount.
The unions cover all state workers, in agencies throughout the state to nurses at Eastern State Hospital and corrections officers at Airway Heights. State managers will experience similar cuts, and elected officials will ask the state Commission on Salaries to lower their salaries by like amounts.
"This is real sacrivice by public employees," Gregoire said, adding she'd fight any legislative attempts to extract more from union and non-union workers during the upcoming session.
Under the agreement, which must still be ratified by the unions' memberships and approved by the Legislature, about 90 percent of all state workers will have their hours cut by slightly more than 5 hours a month, and agency managers and employees will work out schedules to handle these flexible "furloughs" without closing their doors or compiling overtime by other staff. The only ones exempt from the cuts will be those workers who earn less than $30,000 a year.
The state will continue its current contribution of $850 a month to health insurance, which is currently 85 percent of the cost. State workers currently pay $150 and will pay any increases over the next two years.
The agreements would save an estimated $176 million in the state's general fund over the 2011-13 budget period, and a total of $269 million for all agencies covered by all state funds.