Public Employee Contract Revisions

LFDA Editor

In Brief: 

  • The Legislature has considered several ways to shift the balance of power in collective bargaining for public employees.
  • In 2011, the Legislature passed a bill eliminating “evergreen clauses” that extend the terms of expired contracts  during negotiations.
  • Other options considered include giving the Legislature veto power over contracts, and making public workers “at will” employees if contracts expire.
  • Pro: Giving the state more power in contract negotiations will ensure the public has a greater voice.
  • Con: Giving the state more power could slow down contract negotiations or result in an unfair deal for workers. 

Issue Facts: 

Some lawmakers think that public employee unions have too much power over the government when it comes time for contract negotiations.  Over the years the Legislature has considered several ways to shift the balance of power in collective bargaining for public employees.

Adding legislative oversight

Some lawmakers support a measure that would give the Legislature the power to veto any collective bargaining agreement entered into by the state.

Supporters argue that legislative oversight would give the public a voice in contract negotiations.

Opponents of legislative oversight argue that it will simply slow down already lengthy and complex contract negotiations.  Gov. Hassan's 2013 public employee contract negotiations took almost a year.

Eliminating the "evergreen clause"

An "evergreen clause" in public employee contracts allows provisions of an expired contract to continue while contracts are being negotiated. Those provisions can include wage step increases, cost of living allowances, etc. In 2011 the state Legislature passed SB1, which eliminated the clause from public contracts. 

Critics of SB1 said the state should not be involved in negotiations between towns and their public employee unions.

Those who favored the bill said it would help eliminate expenses that cities and towns were otherwise forced to accept without approval.

Making public workers "at-will" employees

In 2011 the Legislature also looked at a proposal that would make public workers "at-will" employees if their contracts expire without any kind of renewal.

The measure was added as an amendment to the state budget by the House Finance Committee.  The amendment stated that after a contract expires, public workers "shall become at-will employees whose salaries, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment shall be at the discretion of the employer."

The sponsor of the measure, Rep. Neal Kurk (R-Weare), said the legislation would motivate public employee unions to settle contracts quickly and affordably, or else give their employers the power to set wages and benefits.

Opponents of the measure argued that it gave too much power to employers, and might even create an incentive for employers to reject contract renewals.

The Senate Finance Committee ultimately removed the "at-will" proposal from the budget. Committee Chairman Chuck Morse said that policy committees can decide on union issues, while the budget panel will stick to budget items.

Related Issues

The large unfunded liability in the New Hampshire Retirement System may affect future benefits for public employees.  Click here to see the LFDA issue page on Retirement Benefits.

New Hampshire has also debated becoming a right-to-work state, which would affect public employee unions.  Click here to see the LFDA issue page on right-to-work.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Killed in the House

Adds the Legislature to the definition of public employer.

Interim Study

Provides that project labor agreements shall not be included in government construction contracts.

Killed in the House

Establishes a commission to study if different public employee collective bargaining procedures should be used for different categories of public employees.

Killed in the Senate

Requires the state to negotiate with each bargaining unit separately, rather than with a committee with representatives from multiple bargaining units.

Killed in the House

Gives the legislature power to review collective bargaining agreements entered into by the state.

Vetoed by Governor

Requires legislative approval of any collective bargaining agreement entered into by the state.

Law Without Signature

Eliminates "evergreen clauses" in public contracts.

Should NH revise the laws governing collective bargaining to shift more power to the state?

Comments

luke's picture
Luke
- Stratham

Fri, 04/16/2010 - 12:00am

A blog entry earlier this week discussed ways to reduce public sector salaries. My question is: how many public sector jobs can be outsourced to the private sector? There are a few potential wins here: short term: a) the private sector tends to be more efficient - by bidding out accounting, janitorial, health services, food services at schools, back office services in state and local depts, and many many other areas, can we reduce our public sector costs today? b) private sector companies receiving these contracts would then pay more in business franchise taxes with this increase revenue. Long term: a reduction on the long term cost to the taxpayer with retirement and othe benefits as the jobs are transferred to the private sector using 401(k) type benefits. My guess? Half of the state and local public sector jobs could be outsourced to the private sector. Certainly not local police, state troopers, AG, and Governor's office personnel to name some non-starters. But really, what public service MUST be performed by public employees?

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