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MAGE Makes Headlines!

"We had an agreement in writing with the Office of the State Employer. They violated that agreement and canceled our raise. That's where this situation started rolling from," said Al QUATTRIN, president of the Michigan Association of Governmental Employees (MAGE).

MAGE represents NEREs as a limited-recognition organization. The group is talking about an agreement to keep NERE pay on par with union pay that was signed in 2010. But in FY '11 and FY '12, they say it wasn't abided by.

Jan WINTERS, director of the Office of the State Employer, said the 1 percent base pay increase this time around was a compromise.

The OSE had proposed a 1 percent lump pay increase instead of a 1 percent base increase. But she supported the recommendation because she hoped it would put the FY '11 controversy behind everybody.

"We think it's critical to draw a line. We think it's very important for the parties to move forward," said Winters.

Michael HERENDEEN, also with MAGE, said that the 1 percent base increase would be appreciated although it is "obviously far short of what we would like to see this commission provide for NEREs in FY '14."

The problem, he and others argued, was that managers were paid only slightly more than those they supervised and lost a lot of benefits when they moved up.

Commissioner Robert SWANSON said he was hopeful that this 1 percent base increase would put NEREs and union employees on equal footing.

"I think what we did today was recognizing the inequity that was created in 2010. This provides equity going forward. And I think that's a major correction that we've achieved. Whether we can ever make things absolutely comparable . . . I'm not sure," said Swanson.

But NEREs aren't ready to concede that equity has been achieved.

"You didn't fix anything. You took a tiny, tiny step. The mathematics of it is just impossible to get away from," said Quattrin.

From here, the process is that the Governor is required to put this recommendation into his budget for the next year. The Legislature, by a 2/3 vote, could overturn the recommendation, but barring that possibility, the change will take effect next fiscal year.