PRESS RELEASE Maine State Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989

For more information, contact: Chris Quint, Executive Director: Cell: 207-232-6470 LePage Administration Grants Pay Raises to Some State Workers The LePage Administration on Friday announced that it was granting pay increases to some Caseworkers working for the Department of Health and Human Services. In an email message sent Friday morning, Theresa CahillLowe, the Director of the Office of Child and Family Services, explained that she and Commissioner Mayheu had toured DHHS worksites, spoken to employees, and realized that the years of pay freezes were affecting morale and the ability to recruit and retain caseworkers. The pay increases will come in the form of step increases, to be granted to new and recent hires in the caseworker classification, bringing these employees up to step 3. The Maine State Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989, represents these employees, and has yet to be informed directly of these pay increases. Nonetheless, MSEA-SEIU President Ginette Rivard took a positive view of this development: “This pay raise is an important first step by this administration in showing that it recognizes the important work performed by state workers. We hope that this signals a new beginning in labor relations with the LePage administration, and all State workers can begin to share in the state's improving financial situation. State workers have sacrificed for many years now, facing declining incomes and benefit cuts. The Administration’s actions reaffirm the findings of the independent pay study conducted by the State and this Union in 2009, which found similar problems in a wide range of classifications throughout State government. We take this wage increase for some state workers as a positive first step in restoring respect for all state workers.” MSEA resumes bargaining with the State next week over a new contract, and looks forward to discussing these new developments, including the need for financial relief for all state workers

The Administration's announcement is copied below, along with further clarification issued this morning:

From: Cahill-Low, Therese Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 12:59 PM Subject: Good news Importance: High

Good morning, As you know, Commissioner Mayhew and I have been going around to the districts to hear what you have had to share regarding what is going well and what you would like to see changed. We both heard over and over again the concerns raised about the freeze on merit increases and in particular, the impact that has had on caseworkers who have been at Step 1 or Step 2 for the past several years. It’s important to note we heard this from all levels; caseworkers who have worked for OCFS longer than 5 years, supervisors, PAs and staff at the Central Office have all voiced their desire to have these salaries examined and increased. I’m happy to announce all caseworkers who were at a Step 1 or Step 2 will be bumped up to a Step 3. Caseworkers who are hired in the future will at least start at a Step 3. This will be effective retroactively to August 10, which was when the most recent caseworker began working for OCFS. You will likely see this increase in your paychecks within the next month. I will have more information on that within the next week and will pass it along as soon as I can. However, be assured as of August 10, you will be paid at the Step 3 rate. On behalf of the Commissioner and myself, I want to thank you for your commitment to keeping children safe and finding permanency for them. We recognize what you do is a most difficult job and truly do appreciate the role you play in this agency. Thank you, Therese

Therese Cahill Low Director, Office of Child and Family Services Department of Health and Human Services 11 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333-0011 Telephone: (207) 624-7900 Fax: (207) 287-6516
From: Cahill-Low, Therese 
 Sent: Monday, August 20, 2012 6:30 AM To: 
 Subject: Pay

As you likely all know, last week I made the announcement caseworkers at Step 1 or Step 2 were going to be moved to a Step 3 and that any person starting would start at a Step 3. This has caused quite a reaction statewide, so I wanted to send along some data to support this decision. Attached you will find information about where we are losing staff (68% of our current vacancies were created by staff who were at a Step 1 or Step 2 when they left), the distribution of steps among current caseworkers, and the comparison of Maine’s pay to New Hampshire and Vermont. As we went to the districts, the Commissioner and I heard loud and clear what a burden is placed on remaining caseworkers when a vacancy is created. When there are multiple vacancies in a district (we have had several districts functioning at a 40% or higher vacancy rate over the past year), the burden is often unbearable and districts must ask for help from other districts. While we get approval to hire, it takes a while for that process to happen and for a caseworker to be trained, in some cases it can take over 6 months. Just recently, we had 2 districts who had no one on their registers (which is where we chose candidates to interview). We need to entice quality people to get on these registers.

About 2 months ago, we had 2 districts who were incredibly hurting and asking the other districts for help. Though the other districts wanted to assist, they couldn’t because they too were experiencing a shortage in staff. We have program administrators and central office staff doing supervised visits and assessments so the work can get done. Assigned reports were coming in left and right, we have children dying and others in really bad situations, and we were struggling to meet our time frames. In the end, we had burned out and overloaded caseworkers, supervisors and PAs. We also had situations that we weren’t getting to fast enough because the reports didn’t stop…and actually increased. Though the restructure is underway and we have attention focused on recruitment and retention in that structure, we could not wait. We reached out to Human Resources to see what we could do. We were told we could examine the qualifications and if applicable, hire the next caseworker at a Step 3. We would have to increase everyone who was a Step 1 and a Step 2 to a Step 3, and we had to self-fund this initiative. After weeks of examination, we were able to determine this is possible. Out of 312 occupied caseworker positions (as of 7/27/12), 135 workers received this step increase; this is 43% of the caseworkers currently working for the Department. We are hopeful this will help keep well-trained staff, as well as continue to keep caseload for everyone as manageable as possible. If this helps a caseworker to stay who may have gone elsewhere, in the long run, it helps everyone. We also know that we often lose newly trained caseworkers to other agencies who pay more. There is also the cost to the Department when a vacancy is created. In the past several years, we have spent at least 1.5M per year training caseworkers. When a vacancy is created, it costs the Department, and ultimately the State, a significant amount of money that we cannot recoup. This is another reason we need to examine how we can

better support our caseworkers and increase the retention of trained staff. Please know this was not a statement of valuing newer employees over long-time employees. The process of examining caseworker pay and starting to address the issue was the beginning. The pay issue is much larger than just caseworkers. We have already started conversations with HR about what else we can do with step increases for people at other steps, as well as reexamining the classifications of these positions. We are also determining an approach to the step process if merit increases are reinstated in this next budget. Supervisors, clerical staff, case aides and program administrators were not left out of this due to any other than reason than data. In OCFS as a whole, there are about 660 positions, with 365 of those positions being caseworker positions. Nonetheless, we do recognize the impact the lack of merit increases have had on retaining people in these other positions as well. We are looking into all avenues to see what we can do to support everyone. Staff in the other divisions (children’s behavioral health, early childhood and public service management) also have not seen an increase. The vacancy information on these positions, however, do not nearly meet the level of critical need as the caseworker lines do. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t looking for ways to support them. I would really like to see every person at OCFS make what they should. Again, please know that this was just the beginning of looking at pay, for everyone. I apologize for not communicating this rationale earlier. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thanks again for all of the work you do…please know it is appreciated. Therese

Therese Cahill Low 
Director, Office of Child and Family Services 
Department of Health and Human Services 
11 State House Station 
Augusta, ME 04333-0011 

Telephone: (207) 624-7900 
Fax: (207) 287-6516
Caseworker Vacancy and Pay Data
OCFS Caseworker Vacancy Rate
# of Employees # of Terminations Turnover Rate % of Terminations at step 1 & 2

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012

413 411 410 391 365

33 39 36 63 37

8.0% 9.5% 8.8% 16.1% 10.1%

46% 68%

(2012 Through 7/27/12)

Caseworker Breakdown:
        Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5 Step 6 Step 7 Step 8 109 26 12 2 24 16 36 87

Total 312 (53 vacancies) Maine’s Pay: Range 22 $16.39 – $22.22/hr, $34,091 – $46,217.60/yr ***By starting out at Step 3, they make 17.88/hr, 37,190.40/yr (still significantly less than our neighboring states) Vermont’s Caseworker Pay: Range 23 $21.02 – $32.84/hr, $43,721 – $68,307/yr **Can reach the maximum after 3 years, upon completion of 1 year, caseworkers make $24.36/hr ($50,668/yr) New Hampshire Caseworker Pay (range changes based on qualifications, the 24 has the same requirements as us) Range 22 $39,390 – $53,137.50 Range 24 $42,841 – $57,934.50

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