In response to The Day’s Editorial, “Union objections should not stop state labor-force study”, (Dec. 18), I would like to clarify the misleading characterization of the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition’s (SEBAC) response. By failing to mention the $2 million cost to taxpayers associated with the Boston Consulting Group, the editorial board fails to report the whole story.
If the state wants to find ways to save money, starting off by spending $2 million on private consultants is not the right way to go about it. Instead, the state should be looking within for savings − for example, in the Department of Transportation alone, simply by in-sourcing inspection and engineering projects the state can save $100 million annually. When I was promoted, one of my tasks was reviewing the contractual plans compiled from both state forces and private consultants. On a regular basis, property maps being created by consultants had to be returned for major corrections, adding to costs.
On top of performance issues, as compared to state forces who work at cost, private consultants work for a profit, increasing the cost. So, when the editorial board fails to mention these negative facets to this “labor-force study,” it fails to report the whole story.
Recently, there has been a significant amount of talk inside state agencies about a planned initiative of the Lamont administration to centralize the State’s information technology (IT) operations. Most of this talk has come from IT managers across state service describing this “IT Optimization” in sunny but vague tones. The administration reached out to CSEA, through the Office of Labor Relations, requesting to meet and discuss the project. In response, the P-4 Council appointed a team of IT members and the team has met with management on a couple of occasions over the past several weeks.
The union team has approached the project with cautious optimism. There are plenty of historical examples of management using “reorganization” or “centralization” to achieve ends that are not in the interests of workers. At the same time, the state’s approach to IT is in need of update in many different ways.
The union team communicated to management a number of goals that need to be a part of IT Optimization and the process of building a 21st century IT operation. These goals include, but are not limited to: reducing the state’s reliance on outside contractors, providing on-going training, creating career paths so that employees can achieve maximum potential, addressing the outdated job description and compensation system, reducing silos and isolation, improving system security, improving services and delivery, expanding the opportunity to work 40 hours, embracing telework and alternate work schedules, and addressing/reversing systemic racism, sexism, ageism, and other forms of historical exclusion.
The discussions with management began in a very collaborative, productive manner. Recently, however, management has inexplicably stalled the process. Despite the stall in union discussions, management continues to hold meetings with various stakeholders (including leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly) purporting that the project is full steam ahead. This is an alarming path for the administration to take. Any initiative of this nature can only succeed if it is executed as a true partnership with the people who actually do the work. Through CSEA, IT members across the state will continue to push for collaboration with an eye toward building a more effective IT operation that is better for workers.
In response to the recent CT Mirror report “Transportation Infrastructure could be key to inclusive economic recovery, but investment has languished” on November 30, I would like to add to Keith Phanuef’s piece with suggestions on how to improve our transportation infrastructure in a fiscally responsible way.
The article cites a decade-long lack of transportation spending, but does not address a key piece of the equation, the Department of Transportation (DOT) wastes over $100 million annually through outsourcing key engineering services. Recent cost analyses, that the DOT must submit annually by statute, indicate wasteful spending of between 58 to 62% when the Department outsources construction inspection and engineering design services. For Fiscal Years 2016, 2017, and 2018, the state could have saved $325 million had this critical work been performed by state employees.
So why does the state continue to waste this much when reports and audits show it can be done more cost effectively with in-house personnel? Politics.
A political shell game takes place because some politicians love to show a reduction of state employees, in lieu of any actual savings. The number of state employees and the state budget’s personnel line item receive the most scrutiny every budget cycle. But when quasi-state employees hired by private companies perform the same work, the public does not have access to the number of employees being hired. In addition, the tax dollars spent by outsourcing fall under the operating expenses budget line item, which is hardly ever scrutinized.
Also to blame is the hiring process Connecticut uses for state employees. The Department of Transportation is not in charge of hiring engineers but instead uses a centralized hiring dinosaur called Department of Administrative Services (DAS). Even as the DOT performs strategic planning for the next five years, they have no authority or control of how many employees they can hire at the department and are subject to the whims of politicians and DAS.
One of the critical services our engineers provide is oversight and inspection of the construction of our roads and bridges. Our priorities are keeping the roads safe and contractors honest. When we do not have enough staff to perform these duties, our work is outsourced to high priced, for-profit companies, many of which are not even based in Connecticut, often taking jobs away from our residents. Having a no-bid contractor oversee a low-bid contractor is like having the fox guard the henhouse. When these construction contracts run over their allotted contract time, these private consulting engineers are rewarded with their own contract extensions, meaning more cost to taxpayers.
With changes coming to the state employee’s pension plan looming in July, 2022, you would expect the state to be staffing up in order to retain qualified lower-costing state engineers ahead of the “silver tsunami.” Instead, it is business as usual in Connecticut. The position count of DOT engineers has not changed and while some hiring of new employees has taken place, it is not nearly enough to counter the expected retirements.
It appears the politicians in control are quite content with doubling down on their addiction to outsourcing, at the cost of the Connecticut taxpayers.
Travis Woodward, P.E. is a Project Engineer for the Connecticut Department of Transportation. He also P4 Council President at CSEA SEIU Local 2001.
The full article can be found HERE.
For more information about the 2019 DOT Savings Report, Click here
Disclaimer: This seniority list has been provided by the State for your information. CSEA has not verified the accuracy of the list. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a P4 Steward.
To All DOT Members,
In cases when emergency situations occur outside of normal business hours, the state has made available on DOT’s Internet Site, (under Quick Links http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?a=1372&q=565834 ) important information, instructions and the necessary forms to be completed to help ensure that employees’ families/beneficiaries receive the benefits they are entitled to. (These forms are also available on the DOT intranet/Human Resources forms/Emergency Disability<http://dot.si.ct.gov/dotsi/cwp/view.asp?a=3568&q=449740>).
During normal business hours, you may contact the state’s retirement office at (860) 594-3108.
These forms are as a result of CSEA pushing for emergency disability efforts for the membership throughout the year as well as successful use of a P-4 labor management committee at DOT).
The window period during which a petition can be filed with the state labor board to initiate a representational election has now closed and CSEA P-4 members have soundly rejected UPSEU, who failed to garner the minimum support necessary to trigger an election.
This is excellent news for all of P-4; we have shown that we speak with one unified voice and now we will move forward together and concentrate all of our efforts on winning a strong contract.
TO: P4 Bargaining Unit Members in DEEP
FROM: Stephen Anderson, P4 Council President
DATE: June 27, 2014
RE: 40 Hours Agreement for some P4 Bargaining Unit Members in DEEP
Here’s how the 40 hours agreement developed:
We met with members many months ago regarding DEEP’s proposal to provide optional 40 hours to a few employees in DEEP. Our direction from the members was that we should proceed, but try to get the option for more.
After protracted negotiations, we were able to add some positions/bargaining unit members to the agreement (not nearly as many as we’d like). This step is clearly just the first step in our goal of getting the OPTION for all members in DEEP.
The agreement includes a provision that would reduce the 40 hour workweek if it was necessary to do so to avoid layoffs.
The agreement includes a commitment from DEEP that it will support any move to 40 hours where the money and the work is there. Accordingly, we need input from members re where we can make that case.
This agreement does not include a compressed AWS options for those selecting 40 hours. We were careful to not allow that to serve as a precedent for future 40 hour deals at DEEP. AWS is important and we will fight to maintain it as it is good for our members, good for management, and good for the environment.
Please contact me or Chuck Lee if you have any questions.