Feb. 25, 2019
Welcome back to MSEA. We’re pleased to be here today, under a new administration, and we’re encouraged by what we’ve heard from Governor Mills so far. There is much that we agree on – this administration and our members all value safe, consistent and high quality public services and creating strong, well-staffed agencies and programs that the citizens of Maine, which includes State employees, can rely on in good times and bad.
However, there are problems facing our state agencies, and we believe in order to continue to provide the quality public services Mainers rely on to grow our economy, ensure our citizens’ safety and maintain what makes Maine unique will require both short-term problem-solving and long-term investment in State agencies and State employees. We look forward to discussing these problems and the solutions our members have proposed over the next months.
As you may be aware, this fall, we surveyed State employees, over 1,000 of whom responded. Their feedback about their experiences identified several problems, new and old, in State employment. 83% of respondents told us that there are recruitment and retention problems in their agencies. Similarly, last week, Governor Mills indicated that every department has told her that they are understaffed. This is also borne out by the data you provided last week, which indicates that 1,335 positions, which is approximately 14% of positions in MSEA’s bargaining units, are currently vacant. State agencies are badly understaffed while the workload has, if anything, increased, reaching crisis points in some areas like emergency communications, nursing, and DOT camps.
Employees who remain are overworked and severely stressed; services are also suffering, as has been tragically demonstrated in DHHS all too recently. 59% of respondents to our survey indicated that they had considered leaving State service. Furthermore, where a State job was once considered a solid, reliable career, almost 41% of our respondents indicated that they struggle to pay their monthly bills and almost 20% work a second job to make ends meet. More than 82% of employees are worried about their ability to retire and more than 70% are concerned about their growing healthcare costs.
These are problems that have solutions. State employees need better pay and benefits to compete with private sector and even other public sector employers. They need manageable workloads, safe staffing, and the flexibility to do their jobs and continue to care for themselves and their families. They need leaders and managers that treat them with respect. State employees cannot provide safe, quality services to Maine families as the expense of their own safety and their own families.