The leadership of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 6 are proud of our members who serve as Official Court Reporters (OCR) in the criminal courtrooms in the Massachusetts Superior Court. Their responsibility in that courtroom is to assure that every motion or trial is being preserved in the most reliable way possible. They have been memorializing the spoken word in our courts since 1888.
Almost two years ago, the Court Reporters were informed that they were no longer needed by the Trial Court and were to be replaced by machines no later than June 30, 2016. Under our contract and Massachusetts labor laws, the Trial Court was obligated to bargain over the impact of these changes.
We all recognize the need of the Trial Court to improve its recording system. We also believe that the Trial Court has a responsibility to ensure that the integrity of the record for every victim seeking justice and for every defendant whose liberty is at stake. OPEIU Local 6 has a solemn duty to protect the Court Reporters interests and ensure that they are treated dignity, respect and with humanity.
Everyone must understand that this has been a long and difficult process for the Court Reporters. The uncertainty what the future held for them must have been the most difficult on many of them.
OPEIU Local 6 is pleased to report that it has reached an agreement with the Trial Court on the impact of For the Record (FTR) on our members who are Official Court Reporters. We were able to negotiate the following protections for OCRs and Court Monitors during this process:
- The position of OCR will not be eliminated until June 30, 2018.
- The five existing Court Monitors will be reclassified to level 14 effective July 1, 2017.
- OCRs who have been selected to serve as Court Monitors will assume those roles in early January 2018 and will continue to be paid at the OCR salary of Level 17, step 8 until June 30, 2018. Effective July 1, 2018, they will be paid at a level 14, step 8 rate.
- OCRs not selected to serve as Court Monitors may apply for posted positions, elect to be laid off, or elect to retire (under 1, the previously agreed upon program of $10,000, or under 2, the legislation filed by OPEIU Local 6 if and when it passes). The Trial Court agreed to continue to support efforts to pass our previously filed special legislation by OPEIU Local 6 to enhance the retirement benefits for OCRs.
- The Trial Court agreed to maintain a list of retired OCRs for per diem court work for certain criminal trails in Superior Court.
- An issue arose regarding whether state employed Court Monitors could earn additional income as transcribers. The bargaining team convinced the Trial Court to jointly seek with Local 6 an opinion from the State Ethics Commission on whether Court Monitors can also be on the list of transcribers that is due to be finalized on July 1, 2017.
We hope that what we negotiated for them will help our members affected by these changes find some closure and help them make plans for the future.