MANCHESTER, NH – A fact-finding session was held June 3 with the objective of advancing the protracted negotiations between the city’s teachers union and the school board negotiations committee. Arbitration attorney James S. Cooper served as the fact-finder.
Participating in the proceedings were School Board members Jimmy Lehoux, Katie Derochers, Sarah Ambrogi, and Rich Girard, who were represented by attorney Matthew H. Upton. The Manchester Education Association participants included Sue Hannan, Maxine Mosley and Michelle Couture, along with their attorney, James Allmendinger.
A Factfinder’s Report was issued June 7 by Cooper, of which one section (health insurance) was updated and amended June 12. The report was classified as confidential for 10 days following issuance.
According to the report there are “four major obstacles for the parties to overcome” in order to reach even a partial agreement – salaries, health insurance sick leave and the matter of pending state legislation and funding.
On Tuesday, Hannan said by state statute both the MEA and BOSC must vote on accepting or rejecting the report in its entirety.
“If either side votes to accept it, the report goes to the Aldermen for funding. If they choose to appropriate the money for it, we negotiate the language and the money. If both sides reject it we go back to regular negotiations, which MEA has always been very willing to do,” Hannan said.
According to the mayor’s office, the report will be included on the June 24 BOSC meeting agenda, and is expected to be voted on at that time.
The MEA has already voted, Hannan said, and will reveal the outcome of their vote after Monday’s BOSC vote.
Below is a summary of Cooper’s conclusion for each of the four sections. The full report is included below, followed by the salary Appendix A.
(1) Salaries and salary scale
“While the Association has not given on all aspects of the remaining issues in dispute, there has been sufficient give and take on the remaining issues that whatever the excess cost is to implement the School Board’s February 7, 2019 salary proposal, I recommend it. This is a case where getting the School Board to where they want to be will take all of the four years that this salary will be in effect. But if this is the cost of making a peaceful transition to a worthwhile and workable salary scale, I doubt that as of June 30, 2023 anyone will be upset that this recommendation has brought four years of salary peace. I recommend the salary schedule as attached hereto as Appendix A.”
(2) Health Insurance
“I recommend that since Elliot Hospital is included within the network that the Site of Service Health Insurance program should be implemented in the first year of the agreement. I recommend this notwithstanding the fact that Elliot Hospital is not included within the network for labs and imaging because teachers should be able to readily access other providers of such services which are included within the network. It is also recommended that the School Board continue their efforts to bring Elliot Hospital and CMC into the network for all medical purposes.”
What does this mean? The Factfinder recommends the Site of Service go into effect the first year of the Agreement. The cost share recommendations are the same.
(3) Paid time off versus sick leave
“My recommendation on this issue is that the parties continue negotiations on the issue of providing PTO in lieu of sick leave, but for now I am unwilling to recommend wholesale adoption of a PTO in lieu of accrued sick leave. The Association should read the tea leaves on this subject and engage accordingly.”
(4) Pending State Legislation.
“This is a subject that was brought up at the last minute of the Factfinding, namely: ‘What if the State Legislature gives the School Board a ton of money?’ The School Board acknowledged that there is legislation pending in Concord which could provide the City of Manchester money to be used solely for educational purposes. The chances of this amounting to a ‘ton’ of money is very doubtful. However if Manchester is at the end of the rainbow from Concord, I agree that the Association should not be bound to the modest salary increases as currently proposed by the recommended salary schedule set forth in Appendix A. My divining of the future with some help from the School Board and the Association suggests that a figure of $7.5 million should be the trigger point. Therefore my recommendation is that if, during any of the next four fiscal years, the State legislature funds Manchester with funds earmarked for education in excess of $7.5 million, the Association may reopen the salary provisions for any succeeding fiscal year of any Agreement adopting these recommendations. If the Association reopens the salary provisions, the School District may reopen the provisions on sick leave, sick leave accrual and sick leave bank.
Report statement from Cooper on the factfinding process:
“Before turning to each of these issues, I caution the reader of this report to recognize that Factfinding and indeed the whole process of collective bargaining is a very conservative, slow-moving process. There are no quick fixes in this business and I tell students who ask me about the process, that it is like steering a huge ship. It turns slowly by degrees; it is a system that values existing working conditions and one that reluctantly attempts new directions. Collective bargaining means that you have to convince the other side that it is in their interest to accept a change: sometimes the change is a benefit in and of itself, but in other instances the change is gained by granting a different but sought after benefit of such value that the employee is willing to accept the change in order to get something he or she wants.”