Fact Finding Will Require Documentation
“The state hasn’t provided any proof that a deal that really helps employees cannot be reached but by our calculations, the deal the state wants will hurt most employees until 2015.”
…Diana Lacey, President SEA
After eight months of collective bargaining with Governor Maggie Hassan’s state bargaining team, the State Employees’ (SEA) Master Bargaining Team announced they are moving into the next stage of bargaining – fact finding.* In July, the team declared impasse, which triggered mediation. Working with an impartial mediator often yields a successful conclusion for contract negotiations. “Mediation generally works when both sides of the table are committed to achieve a new agreement and are willing to resolve the outstanding issues and find practical solutions both sides can support,” said Diana Lacey, President of SEA. “In this instance, that was not the case.”
After four days in mediation, the SEA Master Bargaining Team left the process feeling disappointed and disrespected. “The state’s bargaining team remained unprepared to address this conflict in a serious and committed manner,” said Jim Nall, the SEA member negotiating team chair. “They haven’t rolled their sleeves up, they haven’t provided any proof to support their position, and they continue to flip flop back and forth in their positions.”
Through mediation the parties moved beyond policy issues but the financial picture remained a barrier in reaching an agreement. SEA seasoned negotiator and well known labor attorney, Richard Molan, is bewildered by the state team’s failure to provide any evidence to support their financial assertions. “Our team provided fully referenced, footnoted supporting evidence that utilized the state’s own reports to demonstrate there are sufficient resources to reach a deal that doesn’t harm rank and file state workers. The Governor’s team provided nothing in return – no proof, no argument – nothing but “take our word” approaches to turn the employees down.”
“That’s just not going to cut it anymore. After five years of giving more and more to this state, with lost pay, higher health benefit costs, and higher retirement costs, it’s gotten to the boiling point,” said SEA President, Diana Lacey. “I hear from members all the time…their families are hurting and they need some relief. They love their jobs, as hard as they may be, and they love serving the general public. But they are just like your next door neighbor and they need to pay their tax bill, mortgage, feed their families and heat their homes.”
According to the SEA’s analysis, the proposed cost increases in changes to the employees’ health plan will exceed the increased wages offered. “These changes could be financially devastating to more than fifty percent of the workforce, given how much additional costs they have already taken on through the recession and with no pay increases to soften the blow all these years,” said Nall.
“The state hasn’t provided any proof that a deal that really helps employees cannot be reached but by our calculations, the one the state wants will hurt most employees until 2015. Employees can’t afford more pain. It’s time to get beyond their trust-us like attitudes and fact finding will make that happen.” said Lacey.
“We had hoped that Governor Hassan would order her team to roll up their sleeves and have a thorough and comprehensive discussion with the SEA team about the health plan and its costs. That never happened though,” said Lacey. “Instead, they just keep asking for another mediation day and yet another. That isn’t a strategy for success; it’s wasting precious time.”
* Fact finding requires the parties to develop a written and well-documented argument to support their respective proposals that are in disagreement. A neutral third party, the fact finder, develops a comprehensive recommended contract settlement.