FRANKFORT — Just two days after Gov. Steve Beshear named Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson as his running mate in the next election, Beshear's administration has agreed to talk to unions representing social workers and corrections employees about safety issues.
The administration will hold contract negotiations in August with the two bargaining units of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The talks are not binding and are not about pay or benefits, which are covered in a master contract that covers all state employees.
Topics for discussion will include concerns that social workers have over the lack of security at some of their offices, and complaints from probation, parole and corrections officers about safety equipment. Since February, probation and parole officers have had to share bullet-proof vests. Those vests don't always fit properly, state employees say.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after the AFL-CIO, a federation of unions, wrote Beshear urging him not to pick Abramson as his running mate for the 2011 governor's race. Abramson's relationship with Louisville-area unions has soured over the past several years.
The timing of the talks was not designed to boost Beshear's image with the unions, both sides say.
Beshear and union officials said that the two sides have talked about holding negotiations since Beshear signed an executive order in June 2008 to reinstate the Government Employee Advisory Council, which allows state employees to be represented by a union.
The council was created under Democratic Gov. Paul Patton in 2001, but was rescinded under former Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, said David Patterson, a spokesman for AFSCME.
Patterson said Tuesday that the August negotiations have been in the works for some time and that AFSCME and the administration have discussed possible negotiations with individual bargaining units since June 2008, when Beshear signed the executive order.
Jay Blanton, a spokesman for Beshear, echoed Patterson's comments about the timing.
"We have been working on this arrangement for months," Blanton said.
The administration will meet with state social workers on Aug. 11 and corrections officers on Aug. 12, AFSCME officials said. The union represents 9,000 state employees.
Any agreement the parties come to would be advisory, not binding, but union officials said Tuesday they hope the Beshear administration would honor any union agreements.