SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members at CCSNH this week voted in favor of a contract modification agreement (CMA) that allows for changes in health insurance to help cover a $3.2 million shortfall in 2016 and avert more job cuts.
Volunteers were at the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 office on Monday to count ballots for the vote on the CMA. Among those who returned ballots, 60 percent of the faculty voted yes on the agreement and 65 percent of the staff voted yes. CCSNH requested the change, which allows for three new health plans, when it became aware that health care costs would be $3.2 million higher than anticipated, due to high utilization of services. Bob Bragdon, a faculty member at Nashua Community College, said the college system was open with employees about the situation.
“Nothing seemed to be hidden here: We were going to face a $3.2 million hit and that was going to result in job losses,” Bradgon said. “To me it seemed clear we had to choose between keeping jobs or keeping the current health care. In my mind, the pros of going with the modification outweighed the cons.”
In exchange for the changes to health care, faculty and staff will have $500 added to base pay in April along with a $750 one-time stipend in January. Unfortunately, the agreement carries no assurances that there won’t be layoffs in the future, as the budget can still be impacted by drops in enrollment and state funding.
Wendy Parent, a staff member at Lakes Region Community College who serves on the staff bargaining team, said the situation made bargaining that much more difficult this time around.
“We were asked to support something we had never done before, by carving out health care from the CBA and asking our members to vote on the three new health care options,” Parent said.
Kim-Laura Boyle, a faculty member at River Valley Community College and member of the faculty bargaining team, agreed that members were put in a difficult and unprecedented position.
“I think in the big picture, both faculty and staff realized that the financial situation of the current healthcare plan was unsustainable and would ultimately be a detriment to the CCSNH system,” she said. “Progressing forward with bargaining, in many ways was dependent upon agreeing to the health care CMA. This is a big step for the members and there are a number of them who are still uneasy about agreeing to the CMA without the contract being settled. For faculty particularly, there are still a number of large issues to be worked out with administration and the bargaining team is committed to ensuring that these issues are still discussed and bargained fairly.”
Mark McGrath, a staff member at Manchester Community College, thanked all who were involved in the process.
“I am grateful to all of the negotiation team members, both faculty and staff, and to our voting members whose voice made the difference in this outcome,” he said. “We were faced with a very difficult and unenviable problem and I think all involved came to the best possible resolution.”