Tentative Agreement Reached on Town Employees’ Contract

The Town of Derry is one step closer to a contract with its Professional, Administrative and Technical Employees (PATE).

At the Feb. 4 Town Council meeting, Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau put on his Human Resources Director hat to present aspects of the contract.

The PATE contract covers 29 full-time employees including the tax collector, assessor, police supervisors and information technology manager. Their last contract expired June 30, 2011, and the negotiating team has been “hard at work” for three years, Budreau said.

When the teams reached an impasse, they hired a professional mediator as outlined in RSA 273:A, Budreau said. This effort was unsuccessful. They then commissioned a fact-finder’s report, which was reviewed and rejected by the Town Council this past fall.

But on Jan. 21 of this year, they reached a tentative agreement.

Budreau said he was “thrilled” to finally reach an agreement. But, he warned, it isn’t perfect. “If you negotiate a good deal, everyone leaves a little unhappy,” he observed.

The parties agreed to the following:

• General wage hikes of 2 1/2 percent, Feb. 23 of this year; 1 1/2 percent, July 2014; and 2 percent, July 2015.

Budreau said this group of employees has not received a wage increase since June 2010. However, he added, the raises will not be retroactive.

• The employees in this bargaining unit will pay a greater share of their health benefit, from 14 1/2 percent now to 18 percent, March 1; 19 percent, July 1; and 20 percent, July 1, 2015. Budreau said, “I have found no municipality in New Hampshire where employees pay more than 20 percent.”

• The co-pay on the health plan will be increased and they will also introduce a consumer-driven, high-deductible plan.

“The town’s cost for their health insurance will begin a slight decline,” Budreau said.

• The former contract stipulated that the town would pay up to five years of salary if the employee became disabled, which was reduced to up to four years.

• The former contract guaranteed fully paid Medicare supplemental insurance if the employee retired after 10 years with the town. “We grandfathered that for current employees,” Budreau said. For a new employee the insurance kicks in after 20 years, not 10.

• The maximum “earned time” was reduced from 41 to 36 days and the total accrual reduced from 95 to 60 days.

“This is a good deal for the town,” Budreau said of the contract.

It’s also a pivotal contract, as many of the employees covered are at management level.

“It is in line with comparable New Hampshire municipalities,” Budreau said.

The town has seven collective bargaining units, he said, and as of last week, only two had up-to-date contracts: the Teamsters and the police patrolmen.

“We need to create a culture of negotiating contracts,” he said.

The PATE contract is on the Web site for citizens’ perusal.

Budreau recommended that further discussion of the contract be tabled to the Feb. 18 meeting, and that the Council vote on it at that time. The Council agreed, 7-0, to do so.