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Monday, August 11, 2014

Contracts with Nashua police patrolmen, teachers under review

NASHUA – The Board of Aldermen will begin evaluating new contracts with two of the city’s largest unions this month, representing more than 500 employees in the school district and the police department.

Aldermen have roughly 30 days to review collective bargaining agreements between the Nashua Police Commission and the Nashua Patrolman’s Association and between the Nashua Board of Education and Unit B of the Nashua Teachers’ Union, which represents paraprofessionals. ...

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NASHUA – The Board of Aldermen will begin evaluating new contracts with two of the city’s largest unions this month, representing more than 500 employees in the school district and the police department.

Aldermen have roughly 30 days to review collective bargaining agreements between the Nashua Police Commission and the Nashua Patrolman’s Association and between the Nashua Board of Education and Unit B of the Nashua Teachers’ Union, which represents paraprofessionals.

Aldermen are scheduled to take up resolutions authorizing the contracts for a first reading at their meeting Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

The agreement with police patrolmen would cover the period from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2018, making it one of the longest union contracts the board has taken up in recent years. It calls for increases in base salaries ranging from 1-3 percent per year.

One of the major changes in the contract is a concession regarding health insurance coverage. Patrolmen would pay an additional 10 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums – a concession to which most other union employees in Nashua have already agreed. The change would be retroactive to the start of the contract in mid-2011.

Police patrolmen also would give the city more flexibility to shop around for new health insurance providers. They would give up the right to have so-called “named carriers” spelled out in their contract.

Currently, patrolmen have a choice between Blue Choice New England or a second option that allows for coverage through either Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of New England or HMO Blue.

The city would gain sole discretion over which providers are selected. It would be required to notify employees within at least 120 days if it elects to switch to another comparable plan.

The contract also spells out some of the specific features of its health plans going forward: Starting July 1, 2014, plans would carry charges of $20 per medical visit and $100 per emergency room hospital visit.

To pay off higher health insurance premiums dating back to 2011, patrolmen would first have money subtracted from the salary increases they’re in line to receive between fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2015.

Any remaining balance owed to the city from the change in health care costs between mid-2011 and the start of the contract would come out of employees’ sick or vacation leave accruals.

Looking beyond health insurance coverage, the contract includes several new perks for the union. Among them is an option for police patrolmen to take home some of the $775 allotted to them each year to buy uniforms. Patrolmen would be paid up to $250 if they don’t spend the money in a given fiscal year.

The contract also would create a new rank, Master Patrolman II, which would come with a 1.5 percent wage increase.

Another perk is an increase in the compensation officers get on a yearly basis for earning degrees. The number would increase from $600 per year to $850 for a bachelor’s degree, and from $750 to $1,000 for a master’s degree.

Additionally, the new contract would increase the amount of time off patrolmen can accrue by working overtime shifts, bumping the number up from a maximum of two days to three days.

It also would increase differential pay for detectives by half a percentage point, raising the figure from 0.5 percent of their base salary to 1 percent. Additionally, patrolmen assigned to the Special investigation Division and the Firearms Training Unit would become eligible for the 1 percent differential pay.

The collective bargaining agreement on the table with paraprofessionals covers a much shorter period of time -- just a single year beginning July 2014 and ending June 30, 2015. The group’s previous two-year contract expired at the end of June.

The agreement has already been ratified by the teachers union. It affects 391 Nashua district paraprofessionals, such as reading specialists, job coaches and classroom special education teachers.

The contract calls for an increase of close to 2.8 percent in base salaries. It would leave the employees frozen in their current salary steps for another year.

In the past, paraprofessionals would move up the pay scale based on credited years of experience. Under the current agreement, a para’s years of experience are relevant for new employee placement, but not for pay raises.

New employees won’t be hired at salaries greater than current employees with the same years of experience. Reconciliation of credited years with the pay scale or step schedule will have to take place in future contracts, according to the agreement.

Other new points in the agreement include the district’s plans to offer online workshops and seminars for paraprofessionals by July 1, 2015. The virtual professional development would count toward recertification and can be taken in place of in-person seminars.

The district provides professional development opportunities on early release days, but not all workshops are relevant to each paraprofessional. Having an online option allows paras to choose when to take the workshop and which workshop is most relevant to their position.

The district will continue to reimburse tuition costs up to $8,000 for employees working 1,080 or more hours per school year. The courses must be relevant to the position and ultimately benefit the district.

Part-time sick leave was also clarified in the agreement, along with payroll options for paraeducators when school is closed for weather- or non-weather-related reasons. Paras must use personal leave to be paid when an entire day is canceled for a snow day, unless the superintendent waives the personal leave requirement in extenuating circumstances.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).