Most of NH’s Executive Branch state employees are represented by four separate unions under 8 different contracts: the SEA, Teamsters, NEPBA and the NH State Troopers Association. Workers represented by the Teamsters and NEPBA ratified new contracts with the state in June and July; those new contracts were effective July 1, 2013. The newest and most significant changes included in those contracts are wage increases, a splitting of the sick leave plan, and a new health plan design that includes $500 to $1,000 deductibles (phased in). The workers in these contracts are scheduled to receive their first raise of the new contract beginning with the Friday, August 9th, paycheck. The splitting of their sick leave plan – with some of their leave going into a short term account and some going into a long term account – has already been implemented as well (according to our sources). The deductible health plan is scheduled to begin on January 1, 2014.
Other workers in the Executive Branch that are not represented by any union at all, such as unclassified and confidential (under RSA 273-A), and workers in agencies that do not have a certified bargaining unit for its employees, are also scheduled to receive raises Friday. Because these workers have no other vehicle to achieve wage increases, and no ability to negotiate what they get for health insurance or sick leave benefits, the state typically addresses these issues through legislation or rules. This year, the state budget included the same raises adopted in the Teamster and NEPBA contracts and conveys the raises to all of the unrepresented workers. The sick leave plan changes will require the Division of Personnel to change its rules for those workers too (excluding unclassified workers) if the state plans on giving those workers the same split sick leave plan they gave the Teamster and NEPBA units. As far as health insurance, because those changes don’t start until January 1, 2014, it probably won’t be until open enrollment this fall that these workers really learn what their new health plan will look like.
There are a lot of misunderstandings in Executive Branch workplaces right now. Normally, whatever the SEA negotiates in its contract ends up being given to these other workers (non union workers) in some degree or another. But this year isn’t normal by any means and that’s why there are so many misunderstandings.
For instance, you may be hearing that agency fee payers are getting a raise right now. They shouldn’t be and if they were that would be a violation of the contract and law.
You may also be hearing that part time workers are getting a raise too. This may or may not be appropriate depending on what agency they work for and whether they are legally considered part of a represented bargaining unit. What they are legally considered is currently being decided by the Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB); the SEA filed an Unfair Labor Practice in 2012 after the state unilaterally decided that nearly all part time workers are so temporary and contingent that they should have no rights and protections under NH’s public employee collective bargaining act. With more than 40 references to part time workers in the SEA contract, and more than 3,000 part time workers in the Executive Branch, the matter of which workers are represented is quite serious.
You may also be hearing that workers in human resource offices – known as “HR confidentials” – are getting raises too, just like the 300+ “confidential” workers. The state unilaterally decided in 2012 that they can self determine who a “confidential” worker is and strip those workers of their rights under the SEA contract and the state law. The SEA filed an Unfair Labor Practice about that too and recently won that case. All that’s left to resolve is sorting through the 300+ workers and filing petitions to the PELRB as to which workers seem to meet the law’s requirements and should have their worker rights stripped and which ones shouldn’t; the PELRB will ultimately decide on the 300+ positions. The “HR confidential” are an entirely different group of workers. These are typically people that perform payroll officer, secretarial, job posting, etc. types of duties that are non managerial in nature but reside in human resource offices throughout the state. These workers have the same rights as their co-workers in the agency bargaining unit; they just don’t have to pay an agency fee thanks to a long standing provision in the contract.
While the state is juggling which workers to give raises to and change their sick plan for, the problems with the Lawson (NH FIRST) System continue to wreak havoc on employees lives. In the August 9th payroll, approximately 600 workers in the Department of Transportation will see smaller paychecks thanks to a glitch that doubled their deductions for health insurance and other voluntary deductions. It’s a huge snafu that the state does seem committed to fix but in the meantime these workers will likely find checks or automatic payments bouncing as they await the reimbursements. Some will receive paper checks for the fix, others will have to wait until Wednesday. The SEA Board of Directors was briefed about the problem today. The overall sentiment is that employees have been patient enough with the conversion to Lawson and too many families are being unexpectedly hurt.
In addition to all of these issues, there are still more than 1,000 workers coping with pay changes the state unilaterally imposed in 2012 by changing shift differential compensation. That too resulted in an SEA Unfair Labor Practice, which is currently stayed as the state agreed to arbitrate the matter.
As of right now, the current situation is fraught with unknown variables for workers and the state. The SEA will continue to pursue legal remedies to address these issues and ensure that all workers that have worker rights and protections under NH’s public employee labor relations act and that are in the SEA bargaining units are made whole. The state has fought the SEA all the way though and that is why there are now thousands of Executive Branch workers that may be receiving inappropriate wages and benefits. What a tangled web the state has woven for itself and its employees! Stay tuned.