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Maryland union says Gov. Hogan administration is stonewalling on contract negotiations

The largest union of state workers says the Hogan administration has given it the silent treatment during two months of contract negotiations.

With just three weeks until the Dec. 31 deadline to strike a deal, several dozen union members plan to leaflet Gov. Larry Hogan's holiday party at the governor's mansion Thursday afternoon, hoping to persuade him to engage in talks.

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A rally with several hundred employees is planned for Thursday evening.

Budget Secretary David Brinkley said in an interview minutes before a scheduled meeting on Wednesday with union officials that he was "perplexed" by their complaint. Contract negotiations were not on the meeting's agenda, representatives from both sides said.

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"I'm about to sit down with them now," Brinkley said. "We're not going to talk about things with the press, but we'll certainly have the conversations we need to have. We have been. For them to be crying foul is just wrong."

AFSCME Maryland Council 3 President Patrick Moran said the administration has not responded to a single proposal presented by the union since negotiations began in early October.

The union told its more than 25,000 members they're asking for a $1,200 raise for all workers, a promise they'll get paid for working on Leap Day in 2020, incremental merit raises over the next several years, and a commitment to cut contract work by 1 percent and use the money — about $143 million — to fill vacant union jobs instead.

"In the past, we've negotiated through December, but there was a common understanding that we want to come to an agreement," Moran said. "I have no understanding that they want to come to an agreement. It remains to be seen if they're serious about moving forward."

Brinkley said the state just finished budget conversations with agencies last week, and those were necessary to get a broad sense of how next year's spending plan will look. The administration hopes to get all the fiscal decisions finished before Dec. 25 to send the budget to printers.

The union also has taken issue with "wellness" questionnaire required by health insurers that asks questions such as "How do you like your boss?"

Brinkley said the questionnaires were written by health insurance companies without state input and were meant to be shared only between employees and their doctors. He said that the administration also has concerns about the propriety of some questions.

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