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September 12. 2013 10:49PM

State, State Employee Association fail to reach mediation agreement

CONCORD — The state and its largest union will ask a fact finder to settle disputes over a new two-year contract the two sides have failed to agree to despite eight months of negotiations.

After four days of mediation ended last Friday, the two sides failed to agree on details of a health care plan that would require state workers to pay deductibles the State Employees’ Association claims would be much larger for lower income state workers than the raise they would receive.

Negotiators had a tentative agreement in June, but the State Employees’ Association’s collective bargaining senate voted against the agreement. The two sides went back to the bargaining table.

SEA President Diana Lacey said her negotiators have continued to ask Gov. Maggie Hassan’s negotiating team for information about the new health care plan, but has not received the information.

Under the legal requirements of fact finding, perhaps the state will have to provide the information, Lacey said.

Hassan issued a statement saying she believes the deal reached in June was fair to both state workers and the state’s taxpayers. The two sides have worked to address the concerns raised by the union, she said.

“Our goals remain the same, and we can provide a critical cost-of-living increase to state employees while reducing health care costs and strengthening our state’s financial outlook,” Hassan said. “As we move forward, I will work to ensure that the fact-finding process is respectful, transparent and constructive for both our hardworking state employees and New Hampshire taxpayers, so that we may reach an agreement that is fair to all parties.”

Lacey said she believes some of the problems result from the inexperience of Hassan’s negotiating team.

“They are in a different league now and have not gained an appreciation of that,” she said.

Fact finding is expected to begin next month and conclude by early November.

While money for the new contract is included in the state budget, additional money would have to be found to address any additional costs for the health care plan.

grayno@unionleader.com


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