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Four city labor contracts up for vote tonight in Manchester

By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 15. 2017 11:55AM


MANCHESTER — Aldermen will consider final approval of four labor contracts tonight, with Mayor Ted Gatsas questioning how they will be funded, while a key alderman praised one for putting a crack in the long-criticized Yager-Decker pay scale.

The contracts cover police support workers such as dispatchers, and workers in the welfare department, library and airport.

All contracts would provide 2 percent cost-of-living raises for this year and next. Three of the contracts could increase employee contributions toward health care, raising the employee share of premiums from 15 to 17-1/2 percent.

The fourth contract, which covers police support workers, reduces longevity-based step-pay increases to 2 percent, rather than 3 percent. Under the 19-year-old Yager-Decker salary scale that forms the basis for most city union pay scales, another year on the job translates into a 3-percent merit increase for most workers.

“Two percent is reasonable. That’s a good sign moving forward,” said Pat Long, the Ward 3 alderman who is also chairman of the aldermanic board.

Still, Gatsas said he’s concerned about the costs of the contracts to the city. Three of the four contracts will cost the city $118,500, according to figures provided to aldermen. Cost estimates were not available for the police support workers.

“Somebody just needs to tell people how they’re going to pay for them,” said Gatsas, who would not say whether he plans to veto the contracts if passed by aldermen.

Last month, aldermen approved the four contracts. Under city rules, they are not ratified until aldermen take a second vote.

Long said money is available in the contingency account, and the city is bound to negotiate with its unions.

“What do you do, stop negotiations because there’s a perception of no money? I don’t think it’s fair to say there’s no money,” Long said.

Gatsas acknowledged that the city has $700,000 in a contingency account, which covers unexpected expenses. But he noted that Acting City Solicitor Emily Gray Rice will ask for $157,000 from contingency to cover a severance package for City Solicitor Tom Clark and his deputy, Tom Arnold.

If the contracts are approved, 2 percent will likely become the benchmark for cost-of-living raises for other unions. Late last year, aldermen overrode a Gatsas veto and approved 3 percent raises for police for this year and next.

But earlier this year, aldermen rejected 3 percent cost-of-living raises for firefighters.

Gatsas noted that contracts have yet to be decided for larger unions representing firefighters, the Highway Department and Water Works. Nor have non-union workers received a pay raise, which is traditionally based on union agreements.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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