Sisters and Brothers:
We must inform you the Trial Court arbitrarily and capriciously posted new job vacancies for Case Specialist, Probation Case Specialists and Child Support Processing Clerks above the negotiated Step 1 starting salary. The Trial Court has also increased all Case Specialists, Probation Case Specialists and Child Support Processing Clerks currently at Grade 7, Step 1 and Step 2, to a Step 3 rate. All this was done without an agreement with the Union!
In response, OPEIU Local 6 has sent a Cease-and-Desist Letter to Chief Justice Locke. We have also filed a Prohibited Practice Charge and Grievance naming Chief Justice Locke.
To provide you with some background, in mid-May the Trial Court approached the Union with a “special recruitment proposal” to address a shortage of job applicants for the Case Specialists, Probation Case Specialists and Child Support Processing Clerks. We responded that we were open to a discussion about their recruitment problem after, and only after the Trial Court paid our members their negotiated hazard duty pay for which they waited months to receive!
On June 8, we met with the Trial Court to discuss their recruitment and hiring problem. We suggested that the Trial Court also has a problem retaining employees as well. Further, we know of numerous departments that are severely short-staffed, which has caused a significant burden on our members who are left to pick up the slack. On top of an inordinate number of retirements over the past year, we have seen over 170 resignations during the same period. We were shocked when Human Resources confessed that they didn’t know why newly hired and long-time employees were leaving in droves because HR wasn’t even conducting exit interviews! The answer to their problem is to increase the Starting Step salary to Step 3 for a year for Case Specialists, Probation Case Specialists and Child Support Processing Clerks and to increase current employees in those classifications who are at Step 1 and Step 2, to Step 3. That is nice, but we asked, “what are they going to do for the rest of the OPEIU Local 6 members who work at the Trial Court?” “What about the members who have dutifully carried the caseloads in understaffed departments during the pandemic?” “Don’t you care about them?”
We asked that they send us a written proposal for us to consider. We promptly responded with a counter-proposal that included bonuses for current members based on seniority, and exit interviews with an OPEIU Local 6 representative on the exit interview panel.
We are outraged by the bad faith the Trial Court exhibited by not even pretending to entertain our counter proposal and deciding to implement their disrespectful, ill-advised plan. Word is getting out, and we are already hearing from members fuming at the unfair and ill-mannered Trial Court’s treatment toward them.
We will keep you informed about how our grievance and the Prohibited Practice Charge at the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations progresses. As well as, any progress we may make with negotiations.