Rational Taxpayers of Hampton is not supporting the proposed Warrant Articles for the Fire department unions that are on the ballot March 10, 2015. We are not opposed to giving the Fire Department employees a raise, in fact, we have supported all Town union Warrant Articles since 2011, but we have issues with this particular negotiation.
Our concerns are as follows:
- Past practice has been to post Collective Bargaining Tentative agreements on the Town web site after approval by both parties. They were not available to the Budget Committee at the time of their vote to recommend, they are still not on the Town web site and it took a “Right to Know Law” request to obtain a copy. As is often the case, the devil is in the details.
- With all due respect to Jamie Sullivan, management in the municipal sector tends to be very sympathetic to employee compensation and often insensitive to taxpayers. In addition, future wage increases for management in Hampton have historically been related to the increases received by the unions. It was unwise for the Selectmen to place an employee in charge of negotiating on behalf of the taxpayer.
- Both firefighter contracts have a proposed 2% across the board increase; all other unions are at 1.25% in 2015.
- There were no health insurance concessions; actually there were no concessions at all by the Fire unions. The “new” employees in the Fire unions will continue to pay between 10% and 15% of their health insurance premiums, depending on the plan, while “new” employees in other unions are paying between 20% and 30%. We see this as an invitation to the other unions to claw back past concessions in future negotiations.
- The doubling of the amount of the longevity pay and addition of new educational incentives, for example $1,000 for a Bachelor’s Degree, would increase 2015 pay for some members of the 3017 Supervisor’s union by as much as 3% on top of the 2% across the board increase.
- The 2664 Firefighter’s Tentative Agreement adds a 9-year and a 15-year step, which results in some employees receiving a 2.5% step increase on top of the 2% across the board increase. When the compounding of steps is factored in, the increase rises to 4% or 5% for some employees.
- To reiterate, there were no concessions. If the voters approve these Warrant Articles it places the other unions in a very strong negotiating position for 2016.
Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations are very important to the taxpayers. Employee Wages, Health insurance and NHRS retirement contributions account for the majority of the $26 million operating budget.