This press release was sent to all news outlets by LAEA President Tim Thompson. This will be voted on at Town Meeting and is Article #8.
Londonderry, NH, February 28, 2008:
As Town Meeting approaches on March 15, I want to thank the local media for allowing me the opportunity to convey the position of LAEA relative to Article 8 of the Town Warrant. Article 8, of course, is asking the voters to ratify the tentative agreement reached between the Town of Londonderry and the LAEA on a new collective bargaining agreement.
The LAEA has been without a contract since the expiration of our previous agreement on June 30, 2006. Members of the Association continue to work under the terms of the expired contract, and have done so for almost 2 full years. Negotiations for the contract now before the voters began in late 2004. The Town and the Association were unable to reach an agreement before Town Meeting in both 2006 and 2007. Last year, a fact finders report appeared on the warrant, and was defeated.
In the wake of last year’s Town Meeting, the Association went back to the drawing board with negotiations. As the economy continued to falter and prospects for a 3rd year of being without a contract loomed, the Association and the Town got back to the bargaining table. Through the efforts of the Association, and the direction of the Town Council expressed through the Town Manager, we were able to reach an agreement that we believe is cognizant of the current economy, and found compromise on both sides to reach the tentative agreement that you will now find at Town Meeting. The Town Council voted to support the agreement in January.
As always, there will be those who oppose the contract. We understand that, and appreciate the fact that there are those that are concerned about the community enough to express their opinions and positions. We also realize that as an Association, it is you, the taxpayers of Londonderry that make what we do possible. We understand that personnel costs make up the majority of the budget. We also believe that we provide the taxpayers with services that you want the Town to provide, and that we do so as well as any town or city in New Hampshire. With all that in mind, I offer the following to summarize the agreement, and hope that you will agree with me, that the agreement is in the best interests of the Town and should be approved on March 15.
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For the most part, the proposed contract is much the same as our previous agreement. Where there have been changes, I believe that the Town and the Association have both made concessions. Both sides are happy with certain changes, and both sides wanted more changes in other areas. The fact that neither side came away from the bargaining table completely satisfied is usually a sign that a reasonable agreement has been reached.
Many of the proposed changes are administrative in nature, and I won’t waste any time covering those. What I do want to highlight are the changes that impact you as a taxpayer directly. The most significant change to the contract relates to health insurance. Under the current contract most members pay 15% of the costs relating to the health insurance we receive (members hired after 2004 pay 25%). As proposed, all members of LAEA will pay 20% of the cost of the insurance, consistent with agreements the Town has made with other collective bargaining units. Additionally, we have agreed to reduce the “buyback” for our members that do not take insurance from the Town, and are covered by a spouse. Currently, the buyback is 50% of the cost of the primary insurance policy choice offered by the Town. Under the proposed contract, the buyback would be reduced significantly, cut by more than half, by the final year of the contract. Again, this is consistent with other contracts previously approved by the voters at Town Meetings past.
The other changes in the contract relate to sick and vacation time accruals (which are amended as recommended by the fact finder report last year), the ability for exempt employees to cash out 40 hours of accumulated “administrative time” (time spent at night meetings by those that do not receive overtime pay), and increases the educational incentives in the contract from $5000 per year to $8000 per year. Lastly, the contract includes cost of living adjustments for 3 of the 4 years covered by the contract.
As president of the Association, I see this as essentially a “status quo” contract. We did not ask for any salary increases, we have agreed to contribute more for insurance, and accept less for insurance buy-backs (even though we believe that the buy-backs save the Town money).
We are asking for cost-of-living wage adjustments only, to keep up with inflation. We have been without a contract since 2006, and have not seen cost of living adjustments since 2005. I don’t think I need to tell anyone that living expenses have increased significantly since 2005, and our salaries no longer go as far as they once did.
We believe that what is being presented to the voters of Londonderry is a very fair and reasonable contract. The general sentiment of the Association is that we needed to come to an agreement with the Town this year, and that we do not want to go a 3rd year without a contract. There are members of our membership that did not support the contract, as they believe it is too one sided toward the Town relative to insurance and no salary increases. The majority of our members supported the contract, understanding that we are in difficult economic times and in the interest of equality among all of our members, agreed to the proposal as a means to move forward out of our deadlocked negotiations, and look forward to productive negotiations for FY 2011.