Report Developed After Months of Cooperative Work Between DHHS, Union Members
Last week, the state Department of Health and Human Services and SEA/SEIU Local 1984 released a report on the work of a joint workload standards committee. Created as a provision of collective bargaining, the committee set out to identify caseload standards for workers in several divisions at DHHS.
The joint committee worked throughout 2016, eventually agreeing on caseload standards for positions such as Assessment Child Protection Workers and Family Service Child Protection Service Workers. The idea of a committee to review workload standards is not new — it’s been in the Executive Branch collective bargaining agreement for years — but it came to the fore when Chapter 41 adopted a resolution asking the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 president to populate the committee.
“Caseloads had become the No. 1 workplace complaint, and with worsening staff shortages, we thought that committee was a good place to start,” said Peter Brunette, president of Chapter 41.
What that committee would look like, and how it would go about its work, remained to be seen. Field Representative Andy Capen got to work to bring more workers into the conversation, which Brunette said led to a series of meetings with DHHS employees from around the state.
“We narrowed down the issues quite a bit and got a sense of what people were saying,” Brunette said. “Two years ago, during collective bargaining, I was a member of the sub-unit team that negotiated a change to specify the makeup of the caseload standards committee and established deadlines for the committee’s final report.”
Brunette said the committee included representatives from all the major caseload-driven divisions, including child support, child protection, adult protection, and client services. Each of these representatives were tasked with going back to their division and coming up with working numbers of a maximum range of cases per worker. After some back and forth, the union and management sides agreed, and Chapter 19 member Karen Hebert — who served as the chair for the DHHS side — compiled the report.
“This experience is a good example of how labor and management can work together on difficult, even controversial, workplace issues and reach a consensus,” Brunette said.
The SEA/SEIU Local 1984 team on the workload standards committee included Brunette, an attorney in the Division of Children, Youth and Families, chair Mary Thomas, an adult protective social worker, Jennifer Cheney, a family services specialist, Tammy Clark, a child support officer, Shawn Jones, also a child support officer, Demetrios Tsaros, a child protective service worker, and SEA Field Representative Andy Capen. The agency side included Hebert, who’s the chief administrator for the Division of Child Support Services.
We thank all of our members, as well as the leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services, for working so hard to complete this project.
You can find the full report on our website.