AFSCME Council 18

AFSCME Sounds Alarm on Bungled Back Pay at State Personnel Board Meeting

There were no dates given at Friday's State Personnel Board meeting for when the presses would be up and running to print the remaining 6,000 back pay checks owed to NM Union State Employees. SPO Director Justin Najaka expected to post a schedule for running more batches of checks by next week.

Pictured is AFSCME Council President Patrick Gutierrez, Local 477 President Cathy Townes, and Council 18 Trustee Tirizio Lopez outside the State Personnel Office, Oct 24, 2014.

Also attending and commenting at today's State Personnel Board were Council 18 staff, Local 477 (SF Area) and 1211 (ABQ Area) leaders and membership.

No word on how many batches might be necessary or whether the Governor had on her radar what has become the "back pay fiasco" of the decade.

AFSCME Council Executive Director Connie Derr said, "There has been no rhyme or reason to the methods used in the distribution of the checks. To correct the record, AFSCME offered to distribute the checks early on in the process and that offer was refused."

Council President Patrick Gutierrez added, "the state asked the union to share the updates and target dates with membership, but when this turns out to be misinformation, it make us out to be the liars."

One high level state manager, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFSCME that BDO USA, LLP., the powerhouse east coast company hired to validate the calculations, was grinding the process to a crawl.

The manager said BDO, who is being paid over $2 Million for their work, is having a difficult time validating the multi-step calculations before checks are printed.

Hindsight is 20/20, but had the State followed other advice, and spent the money to beef up SPO compensation staff, and hired locally in New Mexico, the work might've been complete by now with fewer complicating issues.

AFSCME offered comment to the board and brought them up to speed on the mounting frustration and of state employees who were promised checks and did not have them delivered.

While board members ensured AFSCME that they would do everything in their power to help the process move forward, some of the questions and comments from board members revealed they haven't been following the issue very closely.

Board President Yarbrough was unaware that the State had floated a deadline for checks to be printed. In general, board members felt that promising any deadline at all in the face of an unprecedented and large special payroll was a bad idea in the first place.

Local 477 President Cathy Townes concluded that, "the biggest issue is that there is so little information being shared with the workers. We expect the checks and when that didn't happen, you've got to let the employee know why. We anticipated the job getting done. When this happens, people suffer and morale touches the bottom.

AFSCME will continue to press for answers, but members are cautioned to take each update from the state with a grain of salt (or an entire shaker) Fool me once, shame on you, fool me seven times....

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