I am quite disappointed by the Administration's announcement of the Voluntary Retirement Incentive proposal. To be very clear, KOSE is not opposed to voluntary retirement plans in general. However, it is essential that all factors be considered before enacting a Voluntary Retirement Incentive. The State has not, at this point, considered those factors nor met its legal obligations to KOSE. [Read more here]
The Kansas Organization of State Employees (KOSE) is the largest certified, state recognized employee organization for state employees in the executive branch, representing more than 11,000 state employees.
Secretary Taylor's contention that this is not an issue which must be discussed with KOSE is blatantly untrue. Under the Kansas Public Employee/Employer Relations Act, the State is required to meet and confer in good faith with the Union regarding terms and conditions of employment. The statute defines "meet and confer in good faith" as the process where the representative of the public agency and the representative of the employee organization to meet personally and exchange information, opinions, and proposals to try and reach agreement on conditions of employment. K.S.A. 75-4322(m). The statute goes on to define "conditions of employment", in part, as salaries, wages, hours of work, vacation allowances, sick and injury leave, number of holidays, retirement benefits, insurance benefits..." K.S.A. 75-4322(t).
The Voluntary Retirement Program involves both retirement benefits and insurance benefits, two items that by law are subject to meet and confer. Meet and confer is particularly important on this issue because of the potential impact of the Voluntary Retirement Program on State employees, the citizens of Kansas, and the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. The Voluntary Retirement Program, as announced today, contains no limit or cap on how many employees will be allowed to accept the retirement incentive. Some departments across the State, already crippled by budget cuts, are so understaffed employees are working shifts of sixteen hours or more, multiple times during a work week. Removing more employees from the system would create an even greater strain, and endanger the ability of these workers to deliver the services that many citizens depend on every day.
During the 2011 legislative session, there was a great deal of discussion and debate about the financial health of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS). KOSE is very concerned about how a large number of employees suddenly entering retirement all at once will impact the overall long-term health and viability of KPERS. To date, the State has provided no information or calculations to KOSE, the public, or the legislative KPERS Study Commission to indicate how the Voluntary Retirement Program will impact KPERS and its funding levels.
However, this information has been requested by KOSE, with no response from the State. KOSE had hoped to iscuss some of these very real concerns with the State during meet and confer, with the objective of developing a program that could meet the State's objectives while also ensuring employees, citizens, and KPERS were not negatively impacted. KOSE has not yet decided how to respond to this early rollout, but we are meeting with our attorneys to discuss all available options.