State union wins boost in pay grade for court workers

After a lengthy negotiation, several classes of employees in Vermont courts will get a pay raise.

The agreement is the result of negotiations between judiciary management and the judiciary unit of the Vermont State Employees’ Association.

The question of payment for court workers stalled contract talks between the union and the judiciary. The union reported that court staff are overburdened and underpaid to an extent that many rely on side jobs and public assistance.

Under the reclassification, wages for docket clerks, court officers and courtroom operators will be increased by two pay grades.

The settlement came after a neutral party reviewed court workers’ wages and recommended an increase for those employees.

Margaret Crowley, chair of the union bargaining unit, hailed the development as “fantastic news.”

“I know the wage increase will help some of these workers finally be able to get off public assistance or possibly let go of that second or third job,” she said in a statement.

Court Administrator Patricia Gabel said the judiciary “believes that it is critical that their pay grades accurately and fairly reflect their work demands.”

“It was unfortunate that the bargaining process took so long to resolve, but ultimately the outcome was one that was acceptable to both sides,” Gabel said.

According to Gabel, under the agreement the reclassification of those employees will move forward only if the Legislature funds it. The judiciary and the union are now both requesting that the Legislature fully fund the increased wages.

The reclassification is expected to cost $584,235 annually, according to Gabel.

Rep. Kitty Toll, D-Danville, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers are aware of the annual expense and that it is one of the costs they are attempting to cover as they seek to close an $18 million gap in the fiscal year 2018 budget.

Additionally, the agreement calls for increased wages to be paid retroactively from December, which will cost $323,828. The committee has not determined a way to fund that expense, she said.

Elizabeth Hewitt

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