NASHUA — An aldermanic panel is supporting a proposed bargaining agreement for city police officers that would provide them with a 15 percent raise over seven years.
Despite concerns from Mayor Donnalee Lozeau about certain provisions in the seven-year contract, the Budget Review Committee voted Tuesday to recommend authorization of the agreement, which would still need to be approved by the full Board of Aldermen.
Police Chief John Seusing described the proposed contract as “fair and deserving,” adding the wage increases come at the cost of significant retroactive healthcare premiums that will total about $580,000.
While most of those healthcare fees will be paid by officers with retroactive salary hikes, some patrolmen will still owe a collective total of about $80,000, according to Seusing, who believes it is appropriate to allow them to pay those premiums — back to 2011 — with a reduction in their vacation or sick time accruals over the life of the contract. Lozeau does not support that concept.
The Nashua Patrolman’s Association, which has been working without a contract for three years, is one of five police unions in the city. It has 137 members seeking an increase that will be spread out over seven years, according to the contract recommended by the union and the Nashua Police Commission.
If the patrolmen were forced to pay the remaining retroactive healthcare premiums out of pocket, Alderman Ken Siegel said, “I think that is asking them to leave.”
Siegel said he would hate to see experienced officers walk out the door because of this issue.
“They are getting a decent raise, and I think, frankly, they deserve it,” said Siegel.
Alderman David Schoneman, who voted in opposition of the contract, said he has concerns about the agreement, specifically because priorities have not yet been determined.
“To me, the numbers look large, and they look too large,” said Schoneman, questioning how the city can afford the wage hikes without having a sustainable plan in place. “It is hard to establish fairness. It is very, very subjective … and when lives are at stake, it is impossible.”
Seusing stressed that the new contract would help keep the city’s police department competitive when hiring new officers, would assist in retaining existing patrolmen with institutional knowledge and also pay union members a deserving salary.
“I think we need to attract the best and the brightest,” agreed Alderwoman Pamela Brown, who supported the agreement. While Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy agreed with his colleagues that public safety is a priority, he questioned how the budget, which is capped by the Consumer Price Index, would handle the new agreement that would cost about $6.5 million over the life of the contract.