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October 15. 2013 3:03PM

Agreement reached to avoid layoffs due to federal shutdown

CONCORD – Gov. Maggie Hassan and the State Employees’ Association reached agreement Tuesday to prevent federally-funded state employee layoffs due to the on-going federal government shutdown.

The agreement allows for furloughs in lieu of layoffs as federal funds run out. State agencies are using federal funds already allocated to the state, but some programs will run out of money by the end of the month.

“Every day that the senseless federal government shutdown continues, the impact gets worse for New Hampshire’s families and economy,” Gov. Hassan said. “By the end of this month, federal funding for some programs will begin to run out, putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk, and jeopardizing jobs and our economic recovery.”

Hassan said the state cannot eliminate all the pain the shutdown causes, but layoffs will be prevented and will help save taxpayer dollars.

“Once again, in New Hampshire we’ve proven that we can come together, address our challenges and solve problems on behalf of our people,” Hassan said. “Washington needs to do the same and reopen the entire federal government before the situation gets even worse.”

SEA President Diana Lacey agreed that cooperation was the best way forward.

“I am so proud that we’re moving together to address this crisis in a way that will have the least impact on critical services,” Lacey said. “The state employees are committed to the work they do, even if Congress is not. We are putting people first, not politics.”

The agreement ensures that employees will lose no rights or benefits, such as seniority because of the unpaid furloughs.

Under the agreement, if the federal government authorizes back pay for furloughed workers, the state and SEA will help those workers pay back any unemployment compensation they received.

Several state agencies use federal funds to pay employees’ salaries, including Health and Human Services, Environmental Services, Employment Security and Education.

The Hassan administration and the SEA have failed to reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement and are now in fact-finding after mediation failed.

A tentative agreement was reached in June that included a 6 percent pay raise for state employees over the next two years. It would be the first raise in five years.

The agreement also called for state workers to pay deductibles for their health care for the first time, although insurance premiums would remain the same.

The SEA’s collective bargaining senate rejected the agreement in June. The senate said low-income employees would have to pay more for deductibles than they would receive in a pay raise.

grayno@unionleader.com


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