The State Employees’ Association/SEIU Local 1984 Master Contract Bargaining Team officially began negotiations with the state today on the 2015-2017 state master contract, which covers most Executive Branch employees.
This morning, the employees’ bargaining team met with the state’s team for the first time to begin the bargaining process. Typically, the first meeting is focused on establishing “ground rules,” such as dates, times, frequency, location of meetings; the structure of sessions; the bargaining environment; among other things.
“We are pleased to begin negotiations in October, which is really when we are supposed to begin by statute,” said Master Bargaining Team Chairman, James Nall. “It is encouraging that Gov. Hassan has agreed to engage in the process before the remainder of the budget process. We are appreciative of her willingness to begin earlier this time.”
Over the last few cycles, contract negotiations were not complete until late in the budget process; leaving both the workers and the state vulnerable to the ramifications of the legislature trying to fit funding into a nearly completed budget.
“It is great to feel that we are not an afterthought, this time,” Nall said.
The price tag of the current contract accounts for just 18 percent of the state’s annual expenditures.
“People are quick to assume that this is the line item to slash when balancing the state’s budget,” said SEA/SEIU 1984 President Rich Gulla. “In reality, far more is paid to private contractors, who carry out functions that may have previously been performed by state workers. Interestingly, many of those contractors are from out of state, so when they receive payment from our tax dollars, that money is not spent here; it isn’t placed back into New Hampshire’s economy. This ultimately hurts our state.”
While negotiations began today, your fellow union members have been preparing for months. Those preparations include electing the Master Bargaining Team and establishing priorities based on member feedback.
“Before we begin the bargaining process each time, we send out a survey to all the employees in the unit,” said Nall. “It was not surprising that when responding to what one thing they would change about their job it was not their wages or benefits. It was to provide high quality service to our citizens. They want to have the resources to do their job. Our employees strive to provide the services to those in need – whether that’s someone who’s driving on state roads or someone needing assistance with child support. That’s commitment and dedication.”
President Gulla said that many state employees are now doing the jobs of two to three.
“This is the result of repeated budget cuts and the elimination of over 1,200 positions over the last decade,” Gulla said. “Agencies are underfunded year after year. Management is avoiding more layoffs by not filling vacant positions. The amount of work to be done doesn’t decrease, though, it increases. So services for the citizens of this great state are being negatively impacted. That’s a problem.”
How You Can Help
It’s not too late for you to get involved in the bargaining process. You can support the efforts of your bargaining team by joining the Contract Action Team (CAT). As a member of the Contract Action Team, you’ll help facilitate two-way conversation between your co-workers and the bargaining team. There are two training sessions coming up for the CAT, and all are welcome to attend even if they haven’t joined the team. The first is on Oct. 29 from 6-7:30 p.m. and the second is Nov. 6 from 6-7:30 p.m. If you have any questions about CAT or the training, you can contact your SEA/SEIU Local 1984 field representative or contact John Thyng at email@example.com.
Subunit Bargaining Teams Must Submit Proposals
All subunit bargaining teams must submit their proposals as soon as possible to Randy Hunneyman. Randy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 271-3411, ext. 129.