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Contract holdouts: Some city unions erred

Sometimes when you play hardball you get hit - hard. That just might happen to a couple of Manchester public employee unions next year.

Most city unions accepted renegotiated contracts in the last fiscal year that left their members paying more for health care benefits. Their leaders and members understood that without such concessions, large numbers of layoffs were inevitable. They did the right thing for their members and the taxpayers. But some unions, most famously the Manchester Education Association, held out.

Another union that refused to agree to a deal was the United Steelworkers Local 8938, which represents city Water Works employees. Now that union is asking for the deal it rejected earlier this year. Mayor Ted Gatsas and city aldermen are rightly saying 'no.'

As Gatsas points out, the city's savings in that particular deal were based on it being accepted months ago. With so much time passed, the city would have to have a more favorable deal to realize similar savings.

The union's contract expires next year, as does the MEA contract. These unions held out for more pay through the last year of their contracts, but now they face the prospect of negotiating new ones in an election year in which revenues are scarce and spending will again be tightly restricted by the voter-approved spending cap. Oops.

It was a big mistake not to accept the city's offer earlier this year. Getting a more favorable deal next year is going to be extremely difficult, and if aldermen are sensible it will be impossible.

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