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Dave Solomon's State House Dome: Sununu calls union allegation 'disingenuous'

By DAVE SOLOMON
October 14. 2017 10:31PM
Gov. Chris Sununu (DAN TUOHY/UNION LEADER)

Gov. Chris Sununu is firing back at allegations by the state employees union that he is refusing to meet with labor negotiators as a contract impasse hit the 100-day mark last week.

"Throughout all this time, Gov. Sununu refused to meet with labor leaders to discuss the state of the contract," said Rich Gulla, president of the State Employees Association.

"The governor and his team have made it clear they have no intention of working together to better the working conditions of state employees," Gulla continued.

After last week's Executive Council meeting, Sununu said he is precluded by law from discussing negotiations with the union representatives while the matter is in fact-finding.

"We're in a fact-finding mode. I am not allowed to meet with them," he said. "There are certain steps in negotiating a contract. The fact that they are saying I refuse to meet with them is completely disingenuous. That's not part of the process now.

"We are simply following the process as dictated by state law. We are in fact- finding and I follow the rules. One of the frustrations I have is they keep demanding my administration bend the rules."

Sununu also challenged the union narrative that the large number of vacancies in critical positions throughout state government is due to the state's lower pay scales compared to similar positions in the private sector, especially when it comes to registered nurses and prison guards.

New Hampshire Hospital, the state-run psychiatric hospital, shows 44 positions for second-shift nurses on its website, with only 12 filled.

"None of those vacancies has anything to do with union negotiations," Sununu said. "There is an active contract in place that has been continued until a new contract is established."

The governor attributed the hiring woes to a critical workforce shortage, as he has done in the past.

"Both the public and private sector have been experiencing a workforce problem since well before I took office," he said.

"The economy is booming, businesses are coming in, people are fighting left and right to get good employees. Not every vacancy is due to pay. That's a complete misconception, Sununu said.

Bump stock ban

It looks like the Legislature will be taking up the issue of a bump stock ban at some point in the upcoming session, now that state Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, has said he will introduce a bill in the Senate if Rep. Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook, is unsuccessful in getting a late bill introduced in the House.

Woodburn is minority leader in the Senate, while Shurtleff leads Democrats in the House.

The accessory used to enable semi-automatic weapons to fire at a more rapid pace has moved front and center in the gun control debate after the Las Vegas massacre.

Sununu says he would "definitely take a look" at such legislation.

"This is something the U.S. Congress is taking up as well," he said, "and the market is responding. I know some stores have already pulled them, and there is support across the aisle for this type of measure."

Sununu said he can't take a hard and fast position on a bill he hasn't seen. "I'll be happy to take a look at it to make sure whatever steps we take are appropriate, fair, and responsive to the needs and situations here in New Hampshire."

Dave Solomon covers the State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Contact him at dsolomon@unionleader.com.


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