1/24/08

Unions placed prez politics ahead of workers

With contract negotiations still in process, Gilford (NH) voters will not see any new union contracts for either Department of Public Works employees or the recently-formed Police Department union in 2008.

Town Administrator Evans Juris said Tuesday that an agreement has not been reached during negations and due to the lack of time before the town vote in March, these contracts will have to be put on hold until 2009.

The DPW union is organized through the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and has been established in Gilford for quite some time.

Provisions of the existing contract continue in effect until a new contract is approved.

The DPW contract previously allowed for a 21⁄2 percent cost-of-living increase and a 2-1⁄2 percent performance-based increase. For 2008, employees will only be eligible for a 2-1⁄2 step increase, as provided by the "evergreen clause."

All of the town's non-union employees are subject to a discretionary merit pay raise up to 5 percent, under a policy approved last year by the Board of Selectmen.

DPW union President Bob Doverger said that while the "evergreen clause" does provide somewhat of a safety net, union members will feel a pinch over the next year without the added pay increase available.

"Right now it's just kind of going to be one of those things," said Doverger, explaining that in the long run everyone will benefit from the extended negotiations.

Both Juris and Doverger noted that what could be divulged about the current negotiations was limited and restricted.

However, the lack of a contract is not expected to have any impact on the functioning of the department.

The Gilford Police Department union, organized through the Teamsters Local 633, does not have an established contract to keep in place like the DPW does.

"They're status quo," Juris explained.

This means that until a contract is established for the department, there will be both no pay increases and no changes to benefits or anything else.

"We are continuing negotiations and we are progressing, just nothing will come to the voters until March of 2009," said Juris.

Police Department union spokesmen Officer Steve Colcord was unavailable for comment.

(citizen.com)

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