Community members will have an opportunity to give their input on contracts and collective bargaining for town employees. Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau said the first session for public input will be Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Council chambers.
Budreau wrote in an e-mail, “Generally, Derry’s Town Council functions as a representative form of government; many or most of the matters that it acts upon are done so without a public hearing. The public always has the right to provide input to Council members through direct conversations in the community, telephone calls, letters and e-mails. The Council is directed by the Town Charter and New Hampshire statutes to hold public hearings prior to considering several types of matters. For instance, adoption of ordinances, acceptance of grants, zoning changes, etc.
The Council also has the ability to schedule public hearings on any matter that it deems prudent, including the approval of collective bargaining agreements. It has done so three times (to the best of my knowledge) in its history of approving collective bargaining agreements.”
Budreau estimated the Council had held public hearings on three out of 60 collective bargaining agreements.
The most recent decision to allow public input stems from a June 4 Council meeting. After a public hearing on the Teamsters Local 633 contract, Councilor Neil Wetherbee suggested that the process of soliciting input after the contracts were drafted was backwards. At that time Budreau pointed out that the Council is a representative form of government. But, he said, if public input was wanted, it should be at the beginning.
To bring in the public after the contract is negotiated is “difficult for all parties,” he said.
In that meeting, several residents objected to “signing bonuses” for union members taking the town’s insurance. Budreau wrote in a memo that the signing bonuses were intended to partially mitigate the increases in employee contributions.
The collective bargaining unit in question includes employees in Buildings and Grounds, Highway, Parks, Transfer Station, Vehicle Maintenance, Water and Wastewater. The tentative agreement was arrived at April 12, and the Town Council unanimously approved the contract.
Budreau wrote in the e-mail, “Goals had already been set, negotiations had taken place, tentative agreement between the parties had been reached, the union had ratified the proposed contract. Now, at the final moment of a process that may have lasted months or years, the public expressed its views. It’s not fair to the public, the Town negotiators or the unions. It makes more sense to involve the public in the front end of the goal-setting process.”
Budreau’s formal announcement of the process reads as follows:
“The Derry Town Council invites the public to provide opinions and suggestions about the Town’s future union contracts at a Collective Bargaining Goals Public Hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Derry Municipal Center.
“The Town’s union contracts are posted on the Human Resources page of its website (www.derrynh.org). Derry residents are encouraged to review the agreements and provide input to the Town Council by calling or e-mailing Town Councilors at any time, and/or by attending the public hearing on Oct. 15.
The Council will consider all public input as it reviews and establishes goals for future collective bargaining.”
Two of the collective bargaining units, the Police Patrolmen, NEPBA (New England Police Benevolent Association) Local 38 and Public Works, Teamsters Local 633, have current contracts. The Teamsters’ contract is from 2013 to 2016. The patrolmen’s contract is from 2012 to 2015.
Units working without a contract include Administrative Support, AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) 1801; Police Supervisors, SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 1984; Professional, administrative and technical, SEIU Local 1984 Firefighters, IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) Local 4392; and Fire Officers, IAFF Local 4392.