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Hassan seeking compromise after State Employees' Assoc. snubs 6% raises

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 30. 2013 11:40PM

Negotiations are expected to resume this week between the administration of Gov. Maggie Hassan and the State Employees' Association, the largest state-employee union, which turned down a proposed labor pact two weeks ago.

Both the SEA and Hassan's spokesman said negotiations will resume this week. The negotiations follow the adoption of a state budget that made no changes to employee funding levels after SEA leaders didn't send a draft pact to members for a vote.

"They didn't reject the agreement. They said go back to the table and do better," said Diana Lacey, president of the 6,000-member SEA.

"We will be working within the budget but are confident that if all parties continue to work in good faith, a positive agreement can be reached," said Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg.

A new two-year budget kicks in today. The budget includes $17 million to cover 6 percent raises over two years. It also includes an unspecified $25 million reduction on personnel costs.

Previous articles reported the reduction could lead to the layoffs of 200 to 300 workers.

Lacey said no efforts appear to be under way to prepare for layoffs at this point.

She said across-the-board layoffs that were part of the prior two budgets were preceded by four to six months of preparation, including plans for how agencies will do with fewer workers. Yet, nothing has happened so far.

"It's pretty bare bones now," she said about staffing levels. She worried about safety at the Department of Corrections and state hospitals.

Goldberg wouldn't address specifics about layoffs, such as how many are anticipated and what preparations are under way.

Two weeks ago, the New England Police Benevolent Association ratified a contract with the state. The union represents conservation, corrections and liquor enforcement officers. The Teamsters was going through its voting process last week, and the New Hampshire Troopers Association is still negotiating, Goldberg said.

The SEA has balked over three issues — wages, a first-ever health care deductible, and changes to sick time provisions.

mhayward@unionleader.comThe union has said it fears that members in the North Country would not be able to take advantage of lower health costs through Anthem's Site of Service product. She said she wants a health plan that offers equal treatment, accessiblity and affordability.

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