Goffstown workers: Raises for no reason
Will unions play
ball with Selectmen?
The Goffstown Board of
Selectmen (BOS) recently proposed that our non-union
salaried employees get a 2% Cost of Living Adjustment
(COLA) increase instead of what our union workers are contractually entitled to:
a 4% increase. This 4% increase for our union
workers is mandated by their labor contract with
Goffstown, even though there
has been no increase in the cost of living this year.
What this means is that
this year, Goffstown's
unionized workers are contractually receiving raises for no reason. Those
unions should go along with the proposal by the BOS, and
if they don't, the Budget Committee could - and should -
reduce these additional COLA costs by making cuts to the regular salary lines by
an equivalent amount. In other words, if we can't reduce
the cost of COLA payments to the workforce, then we
must reduce the size of the workforce.
Although Goffstown is contractually obliged to provide
these COLA raises to unionized town and school employees,
it is NOT obliged to keep these workers employed.
That means if the unions continue to strangle Goffstown
taxpayers with contractual COLA increases, the town and
school can simply lay off the required number of workers
to reduce the overall cost to taxpayers.
This situation demonstrates one of the many problems caused when including COLAs in collective bargaining agreements:
- The Police Collective
Bargaining Unit (CBU) received a 3% pay increase on
July 1, and will receive another 4% on July 1, 2010 -
but the cost of living has not gone up.
- Teamsters CBU will get the same
percentage. In addition, anyone eligible for a step increase will be raised one
step as well - but the cost of living has not
- It's the same for the Fire CBU
- but the cost of living has not gone up.
Further, these are not just raises to the
workers' current pay. They also increase the
step increases by the COLA as well, so a worker who gets a raise in July and then gets a step increase is
actually getting a double bump.
A better system for Goffstown is a "pay-band" system,
commonly used in the private sector.
Unlike the current COLA system, which only serves to cause salaries to rise without requiring any improvement in
employee performance, a pay-band system provide a spectrum
of minimum - and maximum - pay for each job or job
category. Under this system, if a worker's pay tops out in a
particular band, then that's it - until or unless the band is
adjusted, or the employee gets a promotion to another, higher-paying job
Under this system, the pay-bands are surveyed periodically against the market - say every 5 years - and appropriate adjustments
are then made. Setting pay-bands is very easy to
establish (not to negotiate !!) since the Local Government Center
(LGC) publishes books on salaries. Performance would
then be rewarded by merit increases to salaries
instead of automatic cost of living adjustments such as those we currently have that come
regardless of performance and regardless of whether or not
there has been an actual increase in the cost of
Goffstown's operating budgets already have budget lines for merit increases.
The Town could simply add more money to those lines to
provide for a pay-band system and merit increases.
Salary adjustments could work this way: above average performance might get a increase greater than the declared
increase in the cost of living, average performance could get a small increase (maybe just below the declared
increase) and below average performance would receive
nothing - except perhaps a written warning or a pink slip.
Of course, workers are not going to like pay-bands, especially because they
involve maximums. One compromise around the possibility that an
employee tops out in a particular pay-band but cannot move to another is
to not have band maximums. Salary increases would still be held in check based upon the
exempt employee performance and how much merit was
Finally, people (such as yourselves) who are concerned where this salary thing is going had better pay close attention when
the time comes to negotiate new contracts. Thanks to
a state legislature controlled by democrats, the Evergreen Clause* will require that the last COLA in the retiring
Collective Bargaining Agreement be continued until a new contract is in place.
That means if the CBU is satisfied with its last COLA, it has less incentive to negotiate.
It's time for our unions to
come back to the table and renegotiate not only these COLA
increases, but their entire contracts overall. If
they don't, the Budget Committee may have no choice but to
step in and secure the needed financial reductions
themselves by reducing the number of workers who are
receiving these COLA increases.
And if that happens, nobody
* Note: Evergreen applies only to new
Collective Bargaining Agreements negotiated after the law was passed, so
it is not applicable to our current three CBUs.