New contract proposed for Nashua police union
NASHUA — The Nashua Patrolman’s Association, which has been working without a contract for three years, has prepared a newly proposed bargaining agreement that caused the mayor to quickly outline her concerns.
The association — one of five police unions in the city — has 137 members seeking a 15 percent wage increase spread out over a seven-year period, according to the contract being recommended by the union and the Nashua Police Commission.
The Board of Aldermen was presented with the new contract proposal on Tuesday. An aldermanic committee will now review it before a final recommendation is made to the full board.
“I believe in fairness to our employees and to the taxpayers. Certain provisions of this proposed contract should not receive your support,” Mayor Donnalee Lozeau wrote in a letter to the Board of Aldermen this week.
While she noted police officers perform a very critical job that can be dangerous, Lozeau told city officials that the nature of the policeman’s job is already recognized in the city’s existing wage and benefits package, coupled with their ability to retire after 20 years of service with a generous pension.
“Officers should receive the same cost of living increases to wages and benefits as do our other city employees who also perform critical city work,” said Lozeau. “That is the fair way to conduct negotiations with all our employees.”
Despite some of the mayor’s concerns with certain provisions of the proposed agreement, she appreciates that the union has agreed to join other city employees on the city’s health-care plan, meaning patrolmen would be responsible for retroactive health-care premiums back to Oct. 1, 2011. Still, Lozeau said she does not agree with the proposed contract then allowing officers to pay off the balance of their retroactive health-care premiums by agreeing to a reduction in their vacation or sick time accruals over the life of the contract.
“While the city cannot recover the full costs associated with the patrolmen’s health-care plan since Oct. 1, 2011, and since the patrolmen have already benefited from not having the cost of three years of increased co-pays and deductibles, in fairness to our other city employees, these (patrolmen) should also repay their health-care premiums with real money through weekly payroll dedications,” maintained Lozeau. “I believe that the city should treat all its employees fairly when negotiating contracts.”
Alderman David Schoneman, Ward 3, said he supports Police Chief John Seusing, but does have concerns about managing city spending.“We are facing, next year, a bigger problem than we are this year. There is a lot of room for cuts that don’t impact service,” said Schoneman. “I want to say that I can support this (contract), but how can we keep it within the 1.6 percent spending cap? Police and fire should be a top priority for taxpayers.”
Schoneman admits that the 15 percent raise in wages is “high” and “generous,” but he also acknowledges that a seven-year contract can be challenging.
Seusing and Thomas Maffee, chairman of the Nashua Police Commission, were unavailable for comment on Wednesday.