May is the Start of Contract Negotiations
By IVAN BELIVEAU
Several Goffstown municipal workers’ union contracts are to be renegotiated since they are about to expire. This presents an opportunity for voters to look at town employee’s compensation levels for the next few years and make any appropriate adjustments.
It is felt by many Goffstown residents that it is critical to make sure that municipal workers salaries and benefits are reflective of current economic realities. This is important because the negotiated compensation may be in place for years making changes almost impossible. These “binding” contractual agreements are also the majority of the town department budgets.
The “binding” contractual personnel budget lines are roughly 80% and 92% of the fire and police department budgets respectively. This fact makes it very difficult for any serious budget adjustments since heat, electricity and other routine operating expenses are the balance of the budget. Where do the selectman or budget committee cut if the majority of the department budgets are “off the table?”
The Goffstown Budget Committee’s “hands are essentially tied” once the “binding” contractual agreements are “cast in concrete.” The typical 4-5% per year salary and other compensation increases will already be in place. What remains then is the possibility of reductions in force, furloughs and other forms of staff cuts for budget reductions. This is never easy and is a “last resort.”
One thing that could be done in advance of union contract negotiations is for Goffstown taxpayers, selectmen and budget committee to “let it be known” that the town is prepared to offer a “level funded” compensation package of roughly 80% and 92%, respectively, of the fire and police 2010-2011 budget personnel lines for one year (at a time.) These exact numbers are known (in the budget.)
Then the unions can decide for themselves how to disperse the funds.
Contact your selectmen and budget committee and let them know your thoughts on these contracts.
Please read the details of the Collective Bargaining
Agreements for yourself:
The Goffstown contract negotiating team will then have a taxpayer position from which to negotiate.
A lawyer representing taxpayer perspectives could then be in a position to balance any union lawyer positions if necessary. Once negotiations begin, the “doors are closed” until the process is complete.
Of course, there is the potential problem of the 2006 NH “Evergreen Clause” which may freeze existing contract details at current levels in the absence of a new contract. This “Evergreen Clause” doesn’t exactly create an ”urgency” for contract negotiations.
Maybe the Goffstown union negotiators and/or union members will take the example of the Derry, NH firefighters union and voluntarily freeze benefits at current levels.
Wouldn’t that be a generous gesture to Goffstown taxpayers having difficulty keeping their financial “heads above water?”
I just thought that you had a “Right to Know (R2K).”