Markell, unions agree to state worker benefits reform

Gov. Jack Markell and unions representing Delaware’s state workers have reached an agreement that would save the state $126 million over five years in healthcare and pension costs.

The agreement, if adopted, would affect all current and future state employees, not just those represented by unions.

“We gave a little to get a little,” said Michael Begatto, executive director of the Delaware chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ union.” I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”

In the agreement, what state workers would get is a 2 percent pay increase effective 2012-2013.

What they would give up is a little more complicated. Bottom line, while some benefits may cost a little more, and a state employee might have to work longer to earn them, no healthcare or pension benefits would be reduced.

In terms of the healthcare plan, all state employees would see an increase in their health insurance premium costs of about 1 percent.

Changes to the pension plan would only affect new hires. The amount state employees contribute, after the first $6,000 in earnings, would increase from 3 percent to 5 percent. Also, new hires would have to work 10 years, instead of the current five, to be eligible.

“We are very happy with what we got done,” Begatto said. “We were able to identify problems, and we were able to recommend solutions to those problems.”

The agreement comes after seven weekly meetings that also included members of the General Assembly and the Office of Management and Budget.

“Members of the General Assembly sitting in on those negotiations was critical so they could take the information back to their caucus and keep them up to date on what was going on,” Begatto said.

Some further refinement on some issues remains, and the proposal still has to be approved by the Joint Finance Committee and the General Assembly.

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