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August 17. 2014 10:09PM

Nashua police chief defends new union contract, wage increases

NASHUA — Despite concerns from the mayor about a newly proposed police contract, Police Chief John Seusing said the recommended wage increases are necessary to recruit new officers and remain competitive.

“Not only do we think this (contract) is fair because of the concessions, but as a police agency, we need to stay competitive with salary and benefits for obvious reasons,” Seusing said. “We are all looking for that very select few police candidates that are out there that have very high standards that we require.”

The Nashua Patrolman’s Association, which has been working without a contract for three years, has prepared a newly proposed bargaining agreement for its 137 members. The contract, if approved, would allow a 15 percent wage increase spread out over a seven-year period, according to the contract being recommended by the union and the Nashua Police Commission.

In return, Seusing said patrolmen will owe health-care premiums back to 2011, with some officers included in a family plan owing balances of $5,000 to $6,000. The majority of that bill will be paid using retroactive salary raises, according to the chief.

Any remaining balance of their retroactive health-care premiums — likely a few hundred dollars for select officers — will be paid for with a reduction in their vacation or sick time accruals over the life of the contract, according to the proposal.

“This was a compromise on both sides. I think it is very fair,” Seusing said. “The union also agreed to remove the named health providers from their contract, which was another big concession the city wanted.”

Seusing admits that the recent negotiations were not typical, especially since a seven-year contract, running from 2011 to 2018, was being prepared.

“The union, in my opinion, was very reasonable,” said Seusing, maintaining every concession requested — with the exception of the accrued vacation or sick time — has been met.

Seusing acknowledged that the proposed 15 percent wage increases over the span of the seven-year contract may, at first glance, seem “staggering.”

But when the salary raises are broken down over a seven-year period, plus the cost-of-living increases and the additional 10 percent retroactive health-care contributions, the result is a fair and reasonable proposal, said the chief.

The Board of Aldermen will now consider the recommended bargaining agreement.

Last week, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau submitted a written statement to the board highlighting her concerns with certain provisions of the proposed contract.

Lozeau said she does not agree with the contract allowing officers to pay off the balance of their retroactive health-care premiums by agreeing to a reduction in their vacation or sick time accruals over the life of the contract.

“While the city cannot recover the full costs associated with the patrolmen’s health-care plan since Oct. 1, 2011, and since the patrolmen have already benefited from not having the cost of three years of increased co-pays and deductibles, in fairness to our other city employees, these (patrolmen) should also repay their health-care premiums with real money through weekly payroll deductions,” Lozeau said. “I believe that the city should treat all its employees fairly when negotiating contracts.”

khoughton@newstote.com


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