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State Employees’ Association bargaining officials vote against two-year contract

Late last night, State Employees’ Association bargaining officials voted, 56-48, against a proposed two-year contract for state employees reached this week with state negotiators. They then voted to send union negotiators back to the state for further talks.

The proposed deal would give state workers their first cost-of-living raises in 4½ years but also introduce a deductible for health care costs.

The union’s Collective Bargaining Senate, which must approve a contract before it can be sent to members for consideration, gathered at 7 p.m. and took questions from union members about the contract changes until about 10 p.m. Then they voted against passing the contract on to rank and file union members for consideration.

The meeting, for union members only, was well attended, according to people there.

Earlier yesterday, the New England Police Benevolent Association, which represents the state Department of Fish and Game, the Department of Corrections and the Liquor Commission law enforcement division, ratified the contract.

State negotiators reached the tentative two-year contract deal Tuesday with the negotiators for four unions: The State Employees’ Association, the New Hampshire State Troopers Association, the New Hampshire Police Benevolent Association and the Teamsters. The State Employees’ Association is by far the largest union of the four.

The tentative contract would give state workers a 1.5 percent raise in July, a 2.25 percent raise next July and another 2.5 percent raise in January 2015.

Accompanying those raises would be a new deductible for health care costs, something state workers have never had. The deductible would be $500 for an individual plan and $750 for a family plan in fiscal year 2014, with the family deductible rising to $1,000 in fiscal year 2015.

Workers would continue to pay their current insurance premiums with each paycheck: $20 for an individual, $40 for a two-person plan and $60 for a family plan.

Certain expenses like lab work or ambulatory surgery done at an approved site that charges lower rates would be exempt from the deductible. Preventive care, screenings and surgeries that can be done in a doctor’s office would also be exempt.

Hospital stays would have been subject to the deductible.

The proposed contract would also allow workers suffering financial hardship to apply for a reimbursement of deductible expenses.

Under the proposed contract, state workers would also begin contributing to their dental insurance. The cost per pay period would be $1 for an individual, $2 for two people and $3 for a family.

In announcing the New England Police Benevolent Association’s approval yesterday, Gov. Maggie Hassan’s spokesman said the proposed contract encourages employee health.

“In exchange for working to improve their own health through activities such as taking a health assessment test, getting a physical, getting a flu shot or having their blood pressure checked, employees earn up to $500 a year through a health reimbursement account and a wellness reimbursement program,” Marc Goldberg said in a statement. “This money can be used for health care expenses such as deductibles or eye glasses.”

Ron Scaccia, the chief negotiator for the New England Police Benevolent Association, also issued a statement yesterday.

“Once again the state of New Hampshire has come to its employees and asked them for assistance in battling the ever increasing costs associated with health care, and once again the loyal employees who work for the State have agreed,” he said. “In accepting the changes in health care which will cost the employees higher deductibles . . . the state will realize over $10 million in savings while the employees will receive very modest increases in salaries.”

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323,
atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

Legacy Comments10

Jim: your memory is faulty. In the last contract, state employees gave back as much as $75 million in benefits, and that included a 1 year FREEZE on step increases. There were NO step increases given to ANY state employee in the past year. Those earned increases will never be recouped, and continue to benefit the state going forward to the tune of $8 million in savings per year. You may accept that state salaries are on par with private industry, but you are again mistaken. Gen_X_er is correct, those salaries are 25%-30% lower, and that is in exchange for better benefits. The proposed contract asked state employees to accept a program that is not constructed, and depends on trusting that the program will actually be developed by the state's insurer. Given that insurer's past record of failure to comply with promised improvements, the employees wanted protections from potential delays in the program that the state was unwilling to give.

Regardless of all the comments made here, the bottom line, in my opinion, is the all people who are employeed by a company should be paying their fair share of health care costs! It should not be up to any employee, big or small to cover all costs or even a major portion of the costs of healthcare. I work for a very large corporation and over the years, we have all been asked to pay more for our healthcare AND our company has implimented programs to help us all be more aware of our health and more personally responsible. I also am the spouse of a small business owner and again, there is just so much the employeer should be asked to do in terms of heathcare. I think the State Employees who are not willing to accept this contract are short sited and if they had to go out and purchase their own health insurance and dental, they might change their tune.

What is so hypocritical here is that state employees don't want to contribute more to their health care, yet the majority of them either supported Obama or belong to the SEIU which is in Obama's back pocket. This year, private companies will see a doubling of costs and many of us who pay the frieght of state employees (many hired through the 'who you know' system) working 37 hours per week, will pay exponentially more than these find public employees. GWTW, they need to have skin in the game, if for no other reason but to illustrate what Obamacare is doing to those whom they serve.

Reply to below - 01karotskid01 and Gen_X_er ....... Yes numbers can be played with trying to favor one side over another. Most studies have shown that comparing jobs (responsibilities at work) that the pay scales are very similar. Just because one has a degree does not mean that they should be paid exactly the same as another with the same degree. It has to do with the job one is doing. I'll also agree that a "dysfunctional health care system" is hurting everyone, but that is just it, it is hurting everyone. As far as state employees paying the same taxes, yes they do but they also have a vested interest in voting for the biggest raises/benefits package they can get. If they are in the 20% tax bracket that means for every dollar pay raise they vote for themselves they pay twenty cents in tax. I'll say they would be happy to vote themselves a $20K raise... So they certainly have the right to their opinion but it is certainly a self serving right.

Good for the liberal Unions....Now they can ask for the all our kitchen sinks our 1st born child and the moon too.

It is widely accepted that state salaries are on par with private industry. It is now time to bring the benefit packages on par. Medical insurance plans with $20 - $60 premiums have not been around for 15 years in private industry and seriously a $3 family premium for dental. I would say the “medical deductibles are on par and fair. The $500 a year reimbursement account is a scam to just help recoup costs, how about if you DON’T participate in the program you pay a higher premium because you will cost the state more. Employees choice. Everyone likes a raise and I suppose technically this would be the first cost-of-living raise in 4½ years but if I remember at the last contract there were step increases gained and of course that great longevity bonus plan (don’t get fired and you get a bigger bonus every year) so there were small income increases. Many private industries workers have actually lost income dollars, paid the much higher premiums and are looking at higher taxes to pay for these new proposed increases. Over the years the public heard the state workers voices of lower wages and voted some nice wage increase packages to bring the state workers on par with the private industry. The voices said they simply wanted fairness and equality to private industry. The voices now heard are the private industry workers (tax payers) saying the same thing. Make the insurance packages fair and equal. No hatred, no crying, just ask that the union to agree to exactly what they asked for all those years, fair and equal.

Jim, I have to disagree with your assertion that state employees are paid salaries equivalent to the private sector. I work in the engineering/construction industry. Our clients tend to be state and municipal agencies. I know exactly what they make and it's 25-30% less than an equivalent private sector salary for a comparable position. I hear from them over and over again that they do it for the health care benefits and the pension. When times are good and jobs plentiful nobody thinks about the money state employees are sacrificing. But now that times are tough private sector workers are jealous and say "you should sacrifice too". And what's behind a lot of this? Out of control health care costs. Just more evidence of our dysfunctional health care system.

I submit that requiring people to have some skin in the game does much to reduce healthcare costs.

I think there is another democrat that cant distinguish between health care and health insurance. Every person is welcome at a hospital..... democrats just want somebody else to pay for it.

Jim...state employees pay the same taxes that you do, so despite your opinion to the contrary they do have a right to comment. Over the last decade state employee salaries have been increased 1-3% several times, but at the same time other costs have been shifted to them making the raise non-existent. People do make less than private sector because they prefer benefits and a perceived job security which have both become a joke. It is sad that some private sector employees pay more for their insurance but I would bet their take home is higher than most state employees even with those expenses. Instead of just attacking anyone that you think might have something you do not why not look at the real problem. When the economy was humming and private industry was booming you didnt give a darn about state employees as long as they were there to call you "sir" when you needed something done. Instead of the same old tired talking points from the UL or talking head go and check out the budget or Gov & Council minutes on the state website and look for real abuses.

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