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Friday, September 25, 2009

Contract has safeguards, not promises

Shira Schoenberh examines the proposed contract up for a vote by members of the State Employees Association.
Layoffs are addressed at the beginning of the agreement in a memorandum of understanding. The memorandum states that for the rest of the biennium, state employees can be laid off only under certain circumstances: if facilities are closed or programs are suspended, if federal grants are reduced, or if the layoffs were mandated by the 2010-11 operating budget. The latter category includes about 200 workers who were or will be laid off due to the closing of the Laconia prison, the closing of the Tobey School in Concord, and a restructuring of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Legislature has required Health and Human Services to cut $21 million from its budget.

The contract also gives protections to employees who might be laid off. For one, it restores "bumping rights," which allow senior employees who are laid off to take the jobs of junior employees. In crafting the budget, the Legislature got rid of bumping rights, but the contract would reinstate them in a modified form.

According to the contract, within five days of being laid off, an employee with more than 10 years of experience could bump someone with less than 10 years of experience, as long as the person doing the bumping is qualified for the job and the less experienced employee was earning a lower salary. If the contract is approved, bumping rights would go into effect retroactively to Sept. 17. Those rights would not be applied to those laid off in July, a stipulation SEA negotiators had hoped to include in the contract.

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