NASHUA — Despite opposition from the mayor, an aldermanic committee is recommending a new contract with professional employees of the Nashua Police Department.
The proposed bargaining agreement, if approved by the Board of Aldermen, would offer combined salary increases of 9.5% throughout the course of the four-year contract.
“I don’t have any problem with the wage increases that were negotiated,” said Mayor Jim Donchess.
His concern lies with a proposed change in buyouts for sick time accrual.
“I don’t think we should start to turn back the clock and go back 20 years and restore these sick leave buyouts that were negotiated away almost 20 years ago,” Donchess told the aldermanic budget review committee.
Most recently, about half of the professional civilian police workers who were hired prior to 2003 were allowed to accrue up to 720 hours of sick time and receive a 100% buyout upon retirement. However, the remaining half of the civilian workers hired after 2003 would receive a 20% buyout.
Initially, the new contract would have entitled all 15 of the civilian union employees to 100% of their sick leave balance upon retirement — up to a maximum accrual of 720 hours.
“That is a benefit that every other union in the Nashua Police Department has, and I was trying to level them all out and make them the same. There were some concerns about that process expressed to me,” said Chief Mike Carignan.
Another year of negotiations took place and Carignan is now asking that the union members who were previously entitled to a 20% buyout instead receive a 35% buyout.
“When I negotiate contracts, I am trying to get all of my department as close and alike as I can … I don’t think this is unreasonable given what the subordinates have of these supervisors. I think it is a fair and reasonable contract,” said the chief, explaining the professional workers are supervisors, attorneys, managers and technology specialists.
If approved, the total base pay for the professional employees of UFPO, Local 645, will increase from $1,072,922 to $1,152,601 by the end of the four-year contract.
The salary increases are in line with other contracts and the cost of living, according to Donchess.
Still, he said the city has been engaged in a decades-long effort to reduce sick time buyouts for unused sick time.
He said that if this is approved, it would not be fair to local teachers — the city’s largest group of civilian employees — who have gradually reduced their sick time buyouts from 100% down to 20% for new hires.
Alderman Ben Clemons said he understands the mayor’s concerns, but says it is not unreasonable to have benefits be the same across the board for the police department since its members work together.
“I have concerns about the slippery slope that we are on,” said Alderman David Tencza, saying there should be a consistent sick time policy where 20% of accrued time is fair and reasonable.