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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Union Sues State|Over Privatization

BOSTON (CN) - The Service Employees International Union claims Massachusetts violated the state's "Pacheco Law" by privatizing services in the Department of Mental Health, and laying off more than 100 case managers.

The SEIU Local 509 sued Massachusetts' Department of Mental Health and its Commissioner Barbara Leadholm, in Suffolk County Court.

Under the state's Pacheco Law, for a government entity to privatize its services it must meet numerous requirements, including submitting written statements that prove the private company will provide better services more cheaply than the public employees it replaces, and ensuring "that the citizens of the Commonwealth receive 'high-quality public services at low cost, with due regard for taxpayers of the Commonwealth and the needs of both public and private workers.'"

The SEIU claims the state did not meet its burdens under the Pacheco law before contracting with private entities to run a program called Community Based Flexible Support, or CBFS.

The Pacheco law is technically known as G.G. c. 7 §§ 52-55.

The complaint states: "For example, under G.L. c. 7 § 54: 'Every privatization contract shall contain provisions requiring the contractor to offer available employee positions pursuant to the contract to qualified regular employees of the agency whose state employment is terminated because of the privatization contract and who satisfy the hiring criteria of the contractor.' Defendants' contracts with CBFS contained no such provisions.

"Additionally, under G.L. c. 7 § 54: 'After consulting any relevant employee organization, the agency shall provide adequate resources for the purpose of encouraging and assisting present agency employees to organize and submit a bid to provide the subject services.' Defendants did not consult with Local 509 regarding the CBFS contracts and agency employees were not given the opportunity to submit a bid to provide the services provided under those contracts."

As a result, more than 100 case managers were laid off when the Department. of Mental Health hired private entities to provide CBFS services, including interventions, restoration of daily living skills and housing services, the union says.

The SEIU claims that when it notified the state auditor about the Mental Health Department's violations, "the Auditor concluded that the contracts for CBFS constituted a privatization contract as, 'the facts in general and the statistics in particular indicate that at least a portion of public services was moved from state employees to private contractors without following the provisions set forth in M.G.L. c. 7, section 52-57.'"

The union seeks declaratory judgment and wants all case managers who were laid off and replaced by private employees reinstated.

It is represented by Katherine Shea, with Pyle Rome Ehrenberg.

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