June 23. 2013 9:43PM
No contract for now with NH state workers
Back to the bargaining table.
That's where union negotiators are after bargaining officials with the State Employees' Association late last week voted against a proposed two-year contract for state employees reached with negotiators.
The deal discussed last week contained cost-of-living raises for state workers — the first such raises in over four years — but also contained a deductible for health care expenses, which raised concerns, SEA President Diana Lacey said Sunday night.
"The vote could have been to send the contract to the membership for consideration with a recommendation not to pass," said Lacey. "This vote was to return to the table. I am proud of the Senate's and Master Bargaining Team's contributions to negotiations thus far and I look forward to signing a new contract very soon with the governor."
Lacey said she anticipates talks to resume the end of this week or early next week.
The SEA's Collective Bargaining Senate, which approves all contracts before they are sent to members for debate and consideration, fielded questions from union members for three hours about contract changes before they voted 56-48 against passing the contract onto the full union members for consideration.
Lacey said she spoke with Gov. Maggie Hassan Friday to share the meeting's outcome.
Last Thursday, the New England Police Benevolent Association, which represents Department of Fish and Game, Department of Corrections and the Liquor Commission officers, voted to ratify the contract. The SEA is the largest of the four unions that the state reached a tentative contract agreement with last week.
The contract contains a 1.5 percent raise this July for state workers, a 2.25 percent raise in July 2014, and a 2.5 percent raise in January 2015. The contract also contains a deductible for health care costs, something not included in state workers' prior contracts. The proposed deductible was put at $500 for individual plans and $750 for family plans in the coming fiscal year, increasing to $1,000 for a family deductible in fiscal year 2015.
According to Lacey, during debate prior to the vote, bargaining members expressed substantial concerns about the complexity and number of contract changes members would be facing and how their families would be affected.
One key concern Lacey detailed was that the contract uses Anthem's Site of Service product, and includes deductibles on inpatient care, imaging, and on ambulatory surgery center services and lab services.
"The product is not currently sufficient to equally respond and benefit the entire state employees' health care needs," said Lacey. "If you live in the central or southern portion of the state, you may be able to avoid the deductibles, but those in the North Country, north of the Lakes Region wouldn't be in the same situation."
Lacey said changes to the sick leave plan wages also raised concerns.
"The combination of health care, sick leave and the first two wage increases may bring some much needed financial relief to some employees while leaving other employees with less money to bring home than they've had since the last wage increase in 2009," said Lacey.
Lacey said in 2011, more than 90 percent of state employees saw their net pay cut by 2 percent and their health care costs, including working rates and co-pays dramatically increase.
A request seeking comment from a spokesperson for Gov. Hassan was not returned Sunday night.
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