The Maine State House cupola pokes out of a fog bank rising from the Kennebec River on a chilly morning earlier this month. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s major state employees’ union secured key concessions in a new two-year contract inked on Thursday, including a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour and increased paid leave for parents.

The Maine Service Employees Association and Gov. Janet Mills had deadlocked over the contract this summer when they failed to reach an agreement by June 30, which left employees work under the contract agreed upon two years ago. The deal was ratified by members on Thursday.

Pay seemed to be the biggest divide between the union and the state, with the union contending Maine needs to be more competitive after it released a report showing it paid its employees an average of 15 percent less than New England and private sector counterparts. The union was dissatisfied with the state’s initial offer of a 2 percent increase, while the state contended it had given them raises and more benefits in the prior contract.

The new contracts include a 6 percent pay increase by July 2022, along with increasing the base pay to $15 an hour, according to Maine’s budget department. It also offers a prorated $2,000 payment to employees in December, doubles paid parental leave to four weeks and expands eligibility in a child care reimbursement program.

It also includes a process where employees can request to work remotely, another issue the union was heavily focused on in negotiations, said Dean Staffieri, MSEA’s president, although no appeals process was included. 

Staffieri said the contract was overwhelmingly approved by state workers but declined to say the vote totals. Both parties said the contract was fair and a good step toward resolving the pay discrepancies between Maine and the rest of New England.

The chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that covers correctional officers in the state secured similar benefits in their contract this year, according to the administration. The unions represent a combined total of more than 9,000 state employees.