I am quite disappointed by the Administration’s announcement of the Voluntary Retirement Incentive proposal. To be very clear, KOSE (Kansas Organization of State Employees) is not opposed to voluntary retirement plans in general. However, it is essential that all factors be considered before enacting a Voluntary Retirement Incentive. The State has not, at this point, considered those factors nor met its legal obligations to KOSE.
KOSE heard rumors of a proposed early retirement incentive weeks ago, and promptly requested meet and confer over the incentive. The State indicated it would meet and confer with KOSE prior to rolling out the Voluntary Retirement Incentive. By mutual agreement, the first meet and confer session was scheduled for August 10, 2011. The State never informed KOSE that a planned rollout was scheduled for the first week of August, nor did the State ever indicate that an earlier meet and confer date would be required, or suggested. The State's rollout of this program, one week in advance of the scheduled meet and confer session, violates both the State's agreement to meet and confer and the legal requirement to meet and confer.
Secretary Taylor's contention that this is not an issue which must be discussed with KOSE is blatantly untrue. Under the Kansas Public Employee/Employer Relations Act, the State is required to meet and confer in good faith with the Union regarding terms and conditions of employment. The statute defines "meet and confer in good faith" as the process where the representative of the public agency and the representative of the employee organization to meet personally and exchange information, opinions, and proposals to try and reach agreement on conditions of employment. K.S.A. 75-4322(m). The statute goes on to define "conditions of employment", in part, as salaries, wages, hours of work, vacation allowances, sick and injury leave, number of holidays, retirement benefits, insurance benefits..." K.S.A. 75-4322(t).
The Voluntary Retirement Program involves both retirement benefits and insurance benefits, two items that by law are subject to meet and confer. Meet and confer is particularly important on this issue because of the potential impact of the Voluntary Retirement Program on State employees, the citizens of Kansas, and the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. The Voluntary Retirement Program, as announced today, contains no limit or cap on how many employees will be allowed to accept the retirement incentive. Some departments across the State, already crippled by budget cuts, are so understaffed employees are working shifts of sixteen hours or more, multiple times during a work week. Removing more employees from the system would create an even greater strain, and endanger the ability of these workers to deliver the services that many citizens depend on every day.
KOSE had hoped to discuss some of these very real concerns with the State during meet and confer, with the objective of developing a program that could meet the State's objectives while also ensuring employees, citizens, and KPERS were not negatively impacted. KOSE has not yet decided how to respond to this early rollout, but we are meeting with our attorneys to discuss all available options.
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The Kansas Organization of State Employees (KOSE) is the largest certified, State recognized employee organization for state employees in the executive branch, representing more than 11,000 state employees.