As many of you are aware, in recent years the State of New Hampshire purchased software, referred to as New Hampshire First that is used for financial transactions the state processes, including state employees’ payroll, tracking leave time, etc. The roll-out of the software was bumpy to say the least. It quickly became apparent that the off the shelf, one size fits all software was not working for our state’s needs. There were widespread incidents of errors in employees’ leave balances and pay.
Employees who work in payroll and HR were deluged with complaints. To their credit, they worked tirelessly and often thanklessly to right many wrongs. Although some disagreement remains about the effectiveness of the new system, we applaud these workers for their efforts.
THE roll-out eventually revealed that there was a need to change how some routine transactions should be processed in order to minimize errors, as well as conflicts with the collective bargaining agreement between the state and SEA/SEIU 1984. In response to concerns raised by SEA/SEIU 1984 president, Diana Lacey, Governor Maggie Hassan called for representatives from the state to meet with SEA/SEIU 1984 representatives to improve the effectiveness of the system and reduce errors and other negative impact that employees were experiencing. President Lacey, along with SEA/SEIU 1984 Business Administrator, Kathy Desjardin and Political Director, Jay Ward, met regularly with the state to iron out solutions to the many issues. Both parties recognize the software has limits and is likely to always pose challenges.
One Crucial Issue Is Yet Looming
One key area that has been problematic with NH First (Lawson) is the unilateral change to the way state employees are informed of and apply for positions. Last year the Dept. of Administrative Services issued a memo implementing a job posting/digital application process to replace the existing practice. Compounding the electronic changes was the fact that the state unilaterally moved to an executive branch wide job-posting and recruitment process whereby employees were no longer afforded the first opportunity to be considered for vacancies within their current agency.
This posed a litany of challenges and barriers for workers across the board. The NH First system was often “down.” There were more than one thousand workers whose state issued computers were incapable of running the software effectively because the equipment was too old. Still more than another thousand did not have work issued computers at all. Making matters worse, many such workers have no home computer or internet access based on where they live in the state. Even for those workers whose computers were capable of running the software, the new online process inconsistently worked, workers could not access the postings or online application, AND they could not upload the necessary documents.
In response to this, SEA/SEIU 1984 filed an Association grievance after the memo was released due to the state’s unilateral action. The state denied the grievance. The SEA/SEIU 1984 filed a petition for the appointment of an arbitrator. An arbitrator was appointed in early spring and the arbitration session took place on June 26 and that process is expected to be complete in August after closing briefs are filed. The decision will be forthcoming several weeks later.
Improvements Will Continue
Although regular meetings with the state were recently ended, it is important to report that both the state and SEA/SEIU1984 remain committed to work together to help improve the situation. A project team of state employees in the Department of Administrative services remain hard at work trying to improve the system. Supplemental training for human resource staff has been provided, as well. The Department of Information Technology has deployed hundreds of new computers throughout state agencies and continues to work on upgrades.
If you are experiencing new or recurring problems with NH First that have not yet been reported to the NH First help desk, please make sure that you do report it. If the problem directly impacts your pay or leave balances, your human resources staff and SEA/SEIU 1984 steward are there to help you, too.