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Jaffrey ratifies two union contracts; raises set for 2013

JAFFREY — The Select Board ratified one-year collective bargaining agreements last week with two local unions representing police officers and Department of Public Works employees. A wage increase agreed upon by one union will be extended to non-union employees as well.

The agreement between the town and local police union calls for a 2.25 percent wage increase in 2013 for the union’s 11 police officers. Twelve members of the public works union will receive a 1 percent wage increase;the 2013 contract also establishes a sick-leave bank to benefit DPW employees who find themselves facing periods of prolonged illness or injury, according to Jaffrey’s former Town Manager Mike Hartman.

The Select Board held a special meeting on Dec. 13 so that the two collective bargaining agreements could be ratified before Hartman’s last day as town manager, which was Dec. 14. Hartman is now town manager in Canton, Mass., and DPW Director Randy Heglin is serving as interim town manager in Jaffrey, while the town conducts a national search to fill the position on a permanent basis.

In addition to wage increases for union employees, the town’s non-union employees — 43 full-time and 42 part-time — will receive a 2.25 percent salary increase, which was agreed upon by the Select Board and will take effect Jan. 1, 2013. This practice of awarding wage increases to non-union employees en par with those given to union workers is one that the town has carried over from past years.

Hartman told the Select Board at its meeting that setting up a sick-leave bank was very important to the town’s public works union during contract negotiations.

“It may look odd that one union is getting twice as much as the other,” Hartman said, referring to the 2013 wage increases, “but it is really a matter of what they put on the table. ...[the DPW] had a couple of folks sick in recent years who didn’t have enough sick time.”

Messages left at the DPW on Monday and Wednesday seeking comment about the contract were not returned by press time Wednesday.

Hartman said in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript on Friday that the public works union will establish a committee to review employees’ requests to withdraw sick time days from the bank. He added that the DPW sick-leave bank is not an additional cost to the town.

At March Town Meeting, voters will be asked to approve $5,600 in raises for public works employees and $13,302 in raises for police officers. As in past years, the town will draft two separate warrant articles to reflect the 2013 salary increases agreed upon in the two collective bargaining agreements, Hartman said.

Monday, Heglin said he was still reviewing the proposed 2013 budget and was uncertain how much the salary increases for non-union employees would cost the town.

In negotiating this year’s contracts with the two unions, Hartman said the decision was made early on to pursue a one-year as opposed to a three-year deal, which until last year had been common practice.

“Both the Select Board and the Budget Committee indicated they wanted one-year contracts,” Hartman said, referring to the direction he was given by town officials. He added that when the town reached three-year agreements with the two unions in past years, the economy was much better.

Jaffrey Police Sgt. Scott Stevens, chapter chair for the police union, told the Ledger-Transcript on Dec. 13 that the negotiation process went well for both sides and that the police union was satisfied with the outcome.

Stevens agreed with Hartman that pursuing a one-year contract versus a three-year agreement makes the most sense in light of the uncertain economic times.

“I think it is most beneficial for the town to have a one-year contract because the economy can fluctuate greatly in three years,” Stevens said. “Common sense says things can change quickly and we need to be prepared to deal with them.”

The 2012 contracts with police officers and public works employees called for a 2.5 percent wage increase effective Jan. 1, 2012, and for employees to pay more for medical coverage. Employees of both unions agreed to pay one-third more for medical coverage this year, a change that will remain in effect in the 2013 contracts.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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