Nashua mayor's veto of union contract provision upheld
NASHUA — The aldermanic chambers was standing room only on Tuesday as men and women in blue gathered to support two police union contracts being considered by city officials.
Although the Board of Aldermen previously approved one of the proposed bargaining agreements with the Nashua Police Supervisors Association, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau recently vetoed one line item of the four-year contract that permits sick days to pay for retroactive health care costs.
The board voted to sustain the mayor's veto, which essentially strikes the controversial provision in the contract that would have permitted sick days to fund more than two years of retroactive health care costs.
"Sick days should be a safety net, not a payout or jackpot or savings account," Lozeau told the board.
Police supervisors have 120 days of sick time that can be accrued and paid out during retirement, according to Lozeau, who said that payout is about $38,000 for sergeants and about $41,000 for lieutenants.
Lozeau said that if 15 of those sick days are used by each supervisor to fund the retroactive health care costs, it would equate to about $185,000.
She maintained, however, that the majority of those funds would not actually be returned to the health care program because the supervisors will still have adequate time to accrue those missing 15 days before retiring. It could set a dangerous precedent if other police unions — specifically the patrolmen's union — attempted to take similar action, she said.
"I think it is important that we look at these things carefully," said Lozeau. "... Let us not treat sick time in this manner."
Nashua Police Chief John Seusing stood before the mayor and aldermen before their vote, asking city officials to again support the supervisors contract as it was approved three weeks ago with the sick time provision included.
"As all of you know, they have been nearly 2½ years without a contract," said Seusing, adding the supervisors have performed flawlessly during that time. "Their dedication and loyalty to this city has been immense."
The provision in the contract allowing sick time to fund retroactive health care costs was negotiated in good faith, according to Seusing, who said his department was under the impression by the city attorney that the provision would not be a contentious item.
"We need to move forward," he added.
The agreement with the police supervisors includes a combined 6.7 percent wage increase for sergeants and a combined 7.7 percent pay hike for lieutenants over a four-year period.
Eight aldermen voted to sustain the mayor's veto, while seven aldermen voted to override the veto.
A second agreement with the police department's UAW Local 2232 was also presented on Tuesday. That proposal will be reviewed by an aldermanic committee for further review.