Concord, NH – September 26, 2013, Tuesday, the SEA filed its second unfair labor practice petition (ULP) against the State of New Hampshire with the Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB) as a result of the state’s failure to appear at an arbitration session earlier this month. So, now, in addition to violating NH labor law by making unilateral changes to wages, the state is also being charged with refusing to negotiate in good faith with the SEA, which is another violation of the same law – RSA273-A:5. Wages are a mandatory subject of bargaining, so making unilateral wage changes violates not only the collective bargaining agreement, but also the cited state law.
On Sept. 4, representatives from the state and the SEA were to have presented their respective arguments over the State’s unilateral and sudden change in pay for shift work that was implemented in July 2012, allegedly so the State could comply with federal labor laws. However, the State’s representatives did not bother to show up. We brought you information about this in a recent article found here.
For months leading up to the scheduled Sept. 4 arbitration, the SEA had made numerous attempts to resolve the issue, including agreeing to stay (suspend) an earlier filed ULP about the same issue. The SEA agreed to stay the ULP after the state had agreed, at that time, that resolution through the grievance process, which includes arbitration would be a better way to approach the issue. The outcome of the grievance process would determine whether the state was right or wrong to impose the unilateral changes to the way wages are paid, and we would move forward from there. The grievance process did result in arbitration, and the SEA agreed to combine four separate grievances associated with the curtailment of shift differential pay and settle the matter through arbitration. This decision was based on the SEA’s desire to save both taxpayers and members money by proceeding with one arbitration rather than four. The State responded by postponing the arbitration date the first time it was set and not showing up the next time. The five SEA members who had been subpoenaed to testify at that arbitration had traveled, in some instances over 90 miles to present to the PELRB. And the State did not make an appearance.
On Sept. 4, when Gary Altman, the scheduled arbitrator nor anyone from the State arrived, an SEA representative called the arbitrator who revealed he had received an email the evening before at 7:50 p.m. unilaterally cancelling the arbitration. Due to the late nature of the email, the SEA was not able to discuss the State’s action with Altman. And, Altman billed the State for the entire amount of the arbitration due to their last minute cancellation.
This ULP filed this week asks the PELRB to find that the State violated RSA 273-A:5, I (e) and (h); stop engaging in this unfair labor practice; order the State to participate in the arbitration process to resolve the issue of the changes made to shift differential pay; and to pay the entire cost of the arbitration. Finally, the SEA is asking the PELRB to order the State to grant “such relief that is just and equitable.”
“Workers have been waiting a long time to be made whole,” said Diana Lacey. “The state has played their games and applied stall tactics long enough. It is time to resolve this matter; make it right; and move on. It seems to be lost on the State that they are not treating their largest asset, a committed, experienced work force, with the dignity and respect they deserve. They are playing cat and mouse and it needs to stop.“
We will continue to provide updates regarding this matter.