Fact-Finder’s Report on Union Contract Rejected by Council

The Derry Town Council has rejected both a request to approve a fact-finders’ report on collective bargaining for the Professional, Administrative and Technical Employees (PATE) and a request to allow the fact-finder to address the council on their findings.

Larry Budreau, Human Resources Director and acting Town Administrator, presented the resolution to the Council at its Aug. 6 meeting. The PATE is one of seven bargaining units for town employees and represents 28 people, Budreau said in a phone call after the meeting. Some members of the bargaining unit are the assessor, tax collector, deputy water works director, police captains and information technology manager.
Budreau wrote in a memo, “Fact-finding is a step to resolving impasse prescribed by New Hampshire’s public sector collective bargaining law, RSA 273-A.” He wrote that the fact-finder’s report was non-binding and is rejected as a whole.

Budreau continued, “If the fact-finder’s report is approved, the PATE unit’s increase in cost from Fiscal Year 13 to FY 14 will be more than double the 2.1 percent CPI (Consumer Price Index) that served as the foundation for negotiating FY 14 costs with all units.” He wrote in the memo, “Considered individually, the cost is unacceptable. Considered within the context of all seven bargaining units, approval would be unconscionable.”

He urged the Council to vote “no,” and it did so unanimously. The Council also voted “No” unanimously to having the fact-finder address them with their findings. “It was not a 4 percent ‘raise,’” Budreau said in a phone call after the meeting. “What we do is to consider all the costs of an employee. Their pay and the health insurance makes up the bulk of the cost.” But the PATE’s cost to the town is affected, as are all other contracts, by the downshifting of the state’s portion of public employee retirement.

“What the employer contributes to the New Hampshire retirement system has increased dramatically,” Budreau said. When all the costs were put together, he said, “If we accepted the fact-finder’s report, the cost increase for these employees would have been more than 4 percent.” No other department is getting a 4 percent raise, Budreau said.

Budreau said the last PATE contract expired June 30, 2011. “There is a point where if either party declares an impasse, they can engage a mediator,” he said. That time came in July 2012, Budreau said, and a mediator was brought in for one day in November and one day in December, 2012.
“They did not arrive at an agreement,” Budreau said.

The next step is for the parties to bring in a fact-finder, Budreau said, and that was done March 22, 2013. Both the collective bargaining unit and the town presented their cases. “They described why they believed their respective positions on issues were appropriate,” he said.

Budreau added, “The fact-finder takes that evidence and his experience in collective bargaining and his knowledge of other municipalities’ collective bargaining, rolls them together and issues a report.”
The fact-finders’ report was unanimously approved by the union and unanimously rejected by the Council, 5-0. Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores recused herself from the voting because she has a family member in the union. Councilor Neil Wetherbee was absent.

“Had it been approved, it would have served as the foundation for the next contract,” Budreau said. “Since it wasn’t, the parties will resume their negotiations.”