Tag Archives: TSEA

TSEA hires former Harwell aide as new lobbyist

News release from Tennessee State Employees Association
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee State Employees Association has hired Paul Overholser as Government Affairs Director.

“I had the opportunity to work with Paul for 10 years when he worked as legislative assistant to Speaker Beth Harwell,” TSEA Executive Director Randy Stamps said. “Paul’s experience working with legislators on policy dealing with State Employees, combined with the respect he has on the Hill, will help TSEA better serve our members into the future.”

Overholser worked for Tennessee General Assembly as Speaker Beth Harwell’s Legislative Assistant from 2006-2010. More recently, Paul served as Policy and Research Analyst for the House State Government and Local Government Committees from 2010-2014.

“As a former state employee, I understand firsthand what it means to be a civil servant and the challenges that all of us face,” Paul Overholser said. “I am very excited to work for TSEA. I really appreciate the loyalty, enthusiasm, and pride I’ve witnessed just from my first week and I look forward to using my contacts and experience to help all state employees.”

Paul Overholser holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Austin Peay State University.

TSEA urges end to TN prison privatization

News release from Tennessee State Employees Association
NASHVILLE – In light of the concerns outlined last week by the Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice about the deficiencies of private prisons, and due to the recent increase in private prison facilities in Tennessee, TSEA is calling for an immediate stop to any further state contracts with private prisons and a reduction or end to the use of all private prisons in Tennessee.

“Last week’s Department of Justice decision to reduce, and ultimately end, its use of private prisons should have Tennessee considering taking similar action,” TSEA President Bryan Merritt said. “Commissioner Tony Parker and all the employees at the Tennessee Department of Correction do a great job on a daily basis, and there is simply no good reason to continue paying a private prison company that provides an inferior product, lower levels of safety and security, and debatable cost savings for the public.” Continue reading

Haslam on merit pay system: ‘We’ll get better’

Gov. Bill Haslam is downplaying criticism of his new merit-based plan for setting state employee salaries contained in a recent state comptroller’s audit.

From The Tennessean:

On Monday he told reporters it’s important to focus on the overarching goal of awarding the best state employees, while acknowledging it will take time to accurately calculate which employees are actually the best.

“We will continue to get better, in terms of how we rate, evaluate people. As I’ve said all along, the most unfair thing of all is to treat everybody the same, and fortunately we’re moving away from that,” Haslam said after an event at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
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Schofield: No intention of resigning

The state Correction Commissioner sat down for a long interview with the Tennessee State Employees Association, which is conducting a survey of the department’s employees, reports The Tennessean.

“I’ll say this, I have no intention of resigning. I think our agency is in good shape,” Derrick Schofield told the Tennessee State Employee Association during an extensive interview in November.

“We continue to operate sound facilities. We have documentation to prove it. We continue to maintain our accreditation and that speaks volumes about what we are doing and the folks that are out there doing it. That is what I say to that.”

…The commissioner goes into detail about the scheduling and incident reporting changes in his interview with the TSEA. As he’s done before, Schofield told the state employee agency that the department is considering looking at whether it needs to revisit reporting of previous violent incidents and upgrade their definition of “assault.” If that happens, data on prison violence is sure to change.

The department is also exploring changing the number and lengths of shifts at prisons, on a per-facility basis. That potential change is supposed to rely on the findings of an employee survey. The survey went out to correctional officers last week — delivery was delayed for at least two weeks in order to give the department time to get every officer an email address.

Although Schofield told Haslam the survey would be completed by Tuesday, the survey will actually remain open through Sunday. At that point, the TSEA will provide the department with the final results.

After asking officers where they work and how long they’ve worked for the department, the survey includes six questions about scheduling. The questions ask whether officers believe changes such as rotating days off and not being paid overtime until they’ve worked 171 hours in a month had a positive or negative impact on their lives.

TSEA seeks repeal of 28-day work schedule

News release from Tennessee State Employees Association
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee State Employees Association today is calling for the repeal of the 28-day work cycle within the Tennessee Department of Correction.

The 28-day schedule allows TDOC under a FLSA exemption to pay correctional officers overtime, time-and-a-half, after working 171 hours during a 28-day period. According to TDOC, this change allows them to more effectively manage their overtime costs. But, TSEA believes the cycle has caused more problems than it solved.

“We are at a breaking point with this system,” TSEA President Bryan Merritt said. “Since this cycle was implemented, we have heard about too many officers getting hurt, frequently working double shifts until exhaustion, dealing with lags in overtime pay, and fearing for their safety while at work due to low staffing. It is time to scrap the 28-day cycle and either return to a 40-hour work week, or find some other equitable system for these state employees.”

During a presentation before a special out-of-session House State Government committee, TDOC listed 2015’s turnover rate at 39.6 percent. That figure is up from last year’s 29.6 percent, which already had Tennessee ranked 14 of 15 for average turnover rate percentage among the southern states.

TSEA believes the 28-day cycle has resulted in drastically raising TDOC’s turnover rate, caused severe lags in overtime pay for correctional officers, reduced staffing levels to dangerous levels in our state prisons, and is pushing our hard-working officers to their breaking point both physically and financially.

Prior to the 28-day schedule, officers received time-and-a-half after working 40 hours in a 7-day period, similar to the private sector.

“Repealing the 28-day cycle will not solve every problem, but it’s definitely the first step,” Merritt said.

Gov has no numbers goal in state employee buyouts

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has offered more than 2,000 state workers the chance for buyouts but has no set goal for how many employees must agree to leave their jobs before involuntary layoffs are ordered.

The Republican governor told reporters this week that the buyouts are part of his ongoing efforts to restructure state government. Haslam said the offers are based on job classifications that have become obsolete.

“We hired you to do X position and we had 20 of those, and we think we just need 15 of those now, due to technology or whatever,” Haslam said. “We’re re-examining state government like that, and where there are positions we say we don’t need anymore, those are the positions where we’re doing voluntary buyouts.”

Only full-time employees with at least five years’ experience are eligible for the buyouts, which include four months’ worth of base salary plus $500 for each year of service. Workers chosen for buyouts will also receive subsidized health insurance for six months and up to $15,600 in tuition assistance at public colleges and universities.

Haslam said about 300 workers have applied so far, but he expects that number to increase as the July 17 deadline nears.
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Tennessean vs. Casada and TSEA on legislator insurance info

Following statements from House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada and the Tennessee State Employees Association, The Tennessean reports that the newspaper is being wrongfully accused of asking the state for personal medical information.

“The Tennessean has never requested personal health care information about lawmakers or state employees regarding our coverage of Insure Tennessee. We have requested how much taxpayers pay for lawmakers to have state health insurance,” said Maria De Varenne, news director of The Tennessean.

“The number of incorrect, uninformed statements and lies is astounding. Voters should expect and demand honesty and leadership from lawmakers, not duplicity.”

A reader emailed The Tennessean a response to questions about the records requests the reader sent to House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin.

“No one is asking for records of treatments, conditions, or personal health issues. We have a right to know the COST of our government and how it is spent,” the reader wrote in the Friday email to Casada.

Casada responded Saturday — after Gov. Bill Haslam, an attorney for the state Benefits Administration and other legislative leaders said Friday the records were public information — and told the reader that’s “exactly” what The Tennessean wants.

“You are in error, this is exactly what the Tennessean is asking for; how much the state paid for specific procedures, and to whom it was paid to,” Casada wrote.

Tennessee State Employee Association President Bryan Merritt repeatedly accused “the media” of violating federal health laws by publishing how much money the state and lawmakers spend on their health insurance premiums. The union did not cite The Tennessean by name.

…Casada and Merritt are incorrect. (The story then reviews the information requested.

…After The Tennessean sent a copy Tuesday of the previously published February public records request to Casada, the lawmaker said he assumed the news organization requested information it did not.

“It is common knowledge that legislators have the option of receiving insurance benefits as part of their compensation packages. So, it was logical to conclude The Tennessean was trying to find out deeper details of state health plans, including doctor information, specific procedures and other personal background,” Casada said in a statement.

In a different statement earlier Tuesday to The Tennessean, he argues he’s been upset about the “process” of releasing the records, not the fact The Tennessean wanted to know how much the state pays for lawmaker health care.

“The issue, from the beginning, has been about the process itself and the fact that legislators were never consulted or kept in the loop before information was released,” Casada said.

Note: The TSEA’s latest press release on the matter is below.
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TSEA bashes Haslam bill on state employee retirement

News release from Tennessee State Employees Association:
NASHVILLE – Recent legislation filed by Governor Haslam’s administration, if passed, would significantly reduce benefits for future state employees. When combined with other recent benefit reductions filed by the administration, two different classes of state employees will exist.

House Bill 648 eliminates all state-funded health insurance plan options for retiree eligible state employees hired on or after July 1, 2015. Currently, the state pays 80% of the premium for retirees with 30 or more years of service, 70% for retirees with 20-29 years of service; and 60% for retirees with 10-19 years of service.

“If the Governor’s latest bill passes, a retiree health insurance plan will no longer be available from the state for future state employees,” said TSEA President Bryan Merritt. “By continuing to reduce benefits for future employees, the state is essentially creating a second-class of state employees. Seemingly, this administration tries to avoid legislative opposition by drafting legislation which strips benefits from future state employees who have no way to object. If it is bad for current employees, it is bad for future employees.”

Future retirees would also no longer be eligible for the state’s Medicare supplement plan, which equates to a loss of $25-$50 in monthly premium support from the state. In addition, under the bill the state may deny coverage to a state employee’s spouse who is eligible for similar group health insurance through the spouses’ employer.
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TSEA survey: 87% of state workers believe evaluations subjective

News release from Tennessee State Employees Association:
NASHVILLE – The Haslam administration plans to eliminate across-the-board pay raises and tie state employee pay and compensation to performance evaluation results, but the objectivity of the State’s performance evaluation system is in question according to a recent survey by the Tennessee State Employees Association.

Beginning in January, the Governor’s Pay-For-Performance (or Merit Pay) system would reward employees evaluated as “Valued” a 2% pay increase; employees evaluated as “Advanced” would receive 3%, and those evaluated as “Outstanding” would receive 4% for FY2016.

The TSEA survey, consisting of two questions and distributed to state employees, found that 87% of respondents believe the state’s SMART Performance Evaluation system is subjective, meaning the results can vary due to a supervisors personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations. Of survey respondents, 79.4% also indicated they were told by their supervisor that they cannot be evaluated higher than a “3” or what is considered “valued.”

“The Haslam administration wants to take away longevity pay for state employees and only ‘reward’ employees based completely on a subjective and possibly restricted performance evaluation system.” said TSEA Executive Director John Summers. “We are very concerned that, even if funds are available each year for raises, some employees under the Governor’s performance-pay system will find their earning potential limited by their supervisors.”

According to DOHR Commissioner Rebecca Hunter, the department’s own audit of the SMART Performance Evaluation system indicated the system was only “92% smart.” TSEA believes there is more work to be done before we can be assured Governor Haslam’s pay-for-performance system is objective and fair to all state employees.

Note: The Senate Democratic Caucus liked the above and was quick to offer Haslam-critical commentary. The release is below.
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TSEA defends legislator enrollment in state health insurance

News release from Tennessee State Employees Association:
Statement by TSEA President Bryan Merritt on the state health insurance plan being used as political theatre during the Insure Tennessee debate:

The Tennessee State Employees Association is disappointed by allegations during the Insure Tennessee debate that the state health insurance plan is a taxpayer subsidy.

Our state health insurance is not a subsidy. It’s a benefit of employment that every state employee earns by their service to the state of Tennessee, including our state legislators.

To be competitive in its hiring efforts versus other large business entities, the State of Tennessee offers health insurance to its employees. But that insurance is not free. In addition to the 20% that state employees pay directly, state employees receive a reduced salary in exchange for the benefit. In effect, state employees pay for all of the insurance they receive one way or the other.

While state legislators may be classified as part-time employees, they are subject to being ‘on call’ to their constituents seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. They earn their right to state insurance every day.

Anyone who says this is a subsidy simply does not understand insurance. Legislators who do not enroll in the state insurance plan typically have access to other insurance options through their private employment or family. Not all legislators have the luxury of that option.

We would hope no legislator feels they must withdraw from the state insurance system because of inaccurate, disingenuous political attacks over this benefit. The debate over Insure Tennessee should be focused on the merits of the proposal.

The state insurance plan provides coverage to over 270,000 state and local government employees and their family members. TSEA has taken no position in the debate over Governor Haslam’s plan to extend Medicare benefits under his Insure Tennessee proposal.

Founded in 1974, TSEA represents the rights and interests of 40,000 state employees in Tennessee and has a rich history of improving the lives of its state employee members. For further information, visit TSEA’s website at www.tseaonline.org.