NASHUA — Mayor Donnalee Lozeau is firing back against Alderman-at-Large Jim Donchess's claim that the city has adopted a double standard when it comes to raises for city workers.
"I am fully prepared for the public scrutiny on this. We have made a lot of tough decisions," Lozeau said on Monday. "What he considers a double standard for five top City Hall employees, when two of them don't even work at City Hall, it just sounds kind of inflammatory."
Lozeau is referring to a letter Donchess distributed to the Board of Aldermen on Friday that highlights his concerns about different pay increases for select city employees.
"The raises granted to city employees seem to rely more on who the employees are rather than on fairness and consistency, or on the importance and value of the work the employees do for the city and its citizens," Donchess wrote in the letter.
Lozeau said that comment is "absolutely not fair."
Raises, she explained, are based on merit steps and union agreements.
"I don't pick and please. Everybody was treated the same," Lozeau said. "I try to make it as fair as possible."
Donchess argues that top managers will be receiving raises of 9 percent or more over a three-year period if the mayor's proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 is adopted with the recommended salaries.
In his letter, he states that the director of health and community services will — if approved as proposed — obtain a combined 11.3 percent increase over three years, the director of public works will receive a total 9 percent increase during the same time frame and the economic development director, community development director and Citi-Stat director will receive either a combined 8.8 or 8.9 percent increase if the budget is adopted as recommended.
While it is easy to pick out anomalies, Lozeau explained that merit employees — including the five mentioned by Donchess — receive significantly less in benefits than union workers, including police supervisors.
Despite the suggested salary increases in the mayor's proposed budget, Donchess noted that Lozeau opposed police sergeant salaries recently recommended in a police union contract because she claimed they were unfairly too high.
Those wage increases for police sergeants were proposed at 1 percent for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, and 2.2 percent for fiscal year 2014. For the same three-year time frame, the police sergeants would have obtained a total 4.2 percent increase compared to the 9 percent or more salary increase for the above mentioned department heads.
"To me, this looks like a double standard. When we were looking at the police supervisors' contract, Mayor Lozeau focused upon a three-year time period, which made them look high," Donchess wrote. "Then I focused on the same three-year period for top merit employees, showing top City Hall employees are receiving a lot more than other employee groups for those same three years."
Lozeau insisted on Monday that the City-Stat director is the lowest-paid director in the city, and that the economic development director went one year without any raise.
"It is easy to pick out anomalies, but this is not a fair comparison," she added.
Donchess went on to say that because the police contracts were rejected, police supervisors must now go back to the negotiating table for an indefinite period.
"And it may become nearly impossible to settle with police patrolmen because a reasonable contract for police supervisors has been rejected," he said. "Neither of these groups are stupid, and they must realize that other employee groups are getting more than the police would have received under a contract that was rejected for providing too much."
Lozeau maintained that all city workers, with the exception of certain police unions, have made significant health care concessions that were retroactive, also giving up personal days. Meanwhile, she said some police union agreements include extra holiday and other perks not available for merit workers or other city union employees.
She added that police union workers are not merit employees, but if they wish to become merit employees, she could help them make that firstname.lastname@example.org