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Nashua mayor criticizes police contracts


NASHUA - The mayor is speaking out against four collective bargaining agreements with city police unions, requesting that aldermen do not ratify the contracts.

"Under these proposed contracts, police employees would receive preferential treatment in regard to their wages and benefits at a higher cost to the city," Mayor Donnalee Lozeau wrote in a letter to Alderman Brian McCarthy, board president. "... The city's budget and its taxpayers cannot afford the increased wages and benefits which will result from the approval of these contracts."

The tentative agreements were presented to the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, but were not discussed by city officials at the time. The newly proposed contracts, which expired nearly two years ago, have now been assigned to the aldermanic Budget Review Committee for further analysis.

"While I appreciate that the commission and the police unions have moved forward in the negotiation process, I am concerned with the cost," Lozeau says in the memo. "The proposed collective bargaining agreements contain wage increases and health care benefits that exceed those provided to over 90 percent of our other city employees."

However, the chairman of the Nashua Police Commission, Thomas Pappas, argued Wednesday that the agreements are similar to at least four other city union contracts previously adopted by elected officials.

According to Lozeau, the cost items the Board of Aldermen are being asked to approve in the proposed police contracts exceed, by a considerable amount, the cost items previously approved by the board.

"City employees are entitled to expect the city will treat them consistently and fairly in regard to wage increases and health care insurance premium payments," she said, adding the proposed contracts, if approved, are not fair to other city workers.

Those other unions, she predicts, will eventually ask the city to put them on an equal footing with police employees by matching the wage increases and other benefits.

Under the supervisors' union's proposed contract, police lieutenants would receive a 5.2 percent wage increase over three years, and sergeants would receive raises of 4.2 percent.

Thomas Pappas, chairman of the Nashua Police Commission, argued that the supervisors' contract is not far off from the wages provided to other unions in the city.

"The percentage increase we offered is not significantly different," Pappas said on Wednesday, adding that the supervisors' union has an evergreen clause that enables significant benefits compared to other unions.

In addition, he said members of the supervisors' union will be paying back health insurance costs that will seriously impact their paychecks.

"They will be going home with less money than they do now," he said.

The proposed teamsters' contract provides a wage increase of 5 percent or more for most of their members, as well as a doubling of their longevity payments, according to information provided by the mayor's office.

Under the proposed UAW and communications union contracts, employees would not receive wage increases during the first two years, but would get a 3.5 percent pay increase in fiscal year 2014. In addition, they would not pay any increased health care insurance premiums, co-pays or deductibles until July.

Lozeau stressed that other city unions previously came to the bargaining table and reached agreements with wage increase of about .5 percent per year, while doubling their healthcare insurance premium contributions since Oct. 1, 2011.

However, Pappas maintained that three unions - a Public Works union, city professional union and city clerical and technical union - receive a 3.5 or 3.6 percent pay hike over a three-year span, which he says in is line with some of the police contracts.

His data was confirmed by information provided by the mayor's office. Furthermore, school paraprofessionals within the AFT union are collecting a 4 percent increase over the two years of their contract, Pappas said.

Still, Lozeau contends that other city workers have been paying higher co-pays and deductibles throughout the past year and a half while police union employees have not. Under the proposed contracts, some of the police unions would not have to change their co-pays and deductibles until July 1.

"I wholeheartedly believe that the city needs to be consistent and fair when negotiating its employees' wages and benefits," Lozeau told McCarthy while pointing out the disparity.

During negotiations, Pappas stressed that the commission and the unions have been making a good-faith effort for nearly two years to ratify the expired contracts, adding he personally attended numerous mediation sessions.

"Certainly, I would have hoped that the mayor would have been supportive," Pappas said, adding he was not surprised by her reaction.

The contracts have been an item of contention between the mayor and Police Chief John Seusing for at least the past two months.

Earlier this year when Lozeau delivered her State of the City address, she publicly urged the police unions and the police commission to resolve the contracts. At the time, Seusing called some of Lozeau's comments unprofessional, maintaining her statements wouldn't correct the problem any quicker.

"No one more than me wants to get these settled," Seusing said at the time.

khoughton@newstote.com
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