Pittsfield Town Employees’ Statement on PELRB Decision
Pittsfield, NH- In a statement released today, Richard Walter, President of the Pittsfield Town Employees, AFT-NH, AFT Local #6214 reacted to today’s decision by the NH Public Employee Labor Relations Board on Unfair Labor Practice Charges filed against the Town last spring.
Mr. Walter stated, “Our members stood together to stand up for important rights to be heard about their working conditions which affect public services. We are extremely pleased with the decision of the PELRB. I am proud of the commitment to fairness and public service our members have shown throughout this long, grueling process. Our members care deeply about the services they provide to the residents of Pittsfield and the attempts to prohibit our speech was harmful to the public discourse which must occur in our communities as we determine the quality and level of services we provide. We look forward to building a positive working relationship with the Board of Selectmen as we move forward and some positive changes have already occurred. ”
The charges alleged that the Board of Selectmen had violated RSA 273-A, the NH Public Employee Labor Relations Act and breached the collective bargaining agreement between the parties when it issued a directive denying overtime and details to full-time bargaining unit members in the first instance.
The charges also alleged an infringement of the employee’s rights to speak to the public about their conditions of employment. Additional charges were made by the Union that the Selectmen had improperly changed the schedules of the police and ambulance departments. The Union prevailed on the charges regarding free speech of its’ members under the public employee labor relations act, overtime and details. Back pay provisions regarding detail and overtime have been awarded to make the employees whole for the denial of working these details and being denied overtime shifts. The Board ruled with the Town on the issue of the schedules; however, since the original charges were filed, the schedules have reverted to those in place prior to the filing of the charges.
In its’ decision, the NH PELRB upheld the rights of local union members to speak freely in public about matters relating to their terms and conditions of employment and stated that, “the Board committed an unfair labor practice when it issued a policy prohibiting employees from communicating with the public and media without prior approval from the Board of Selectmen.” The Board of Selectmen had passed a gag order, only to later rescind it. Union members provided testimony to the Labor Board that they felt intimidated by the actions of the Board of Selectmen.
“AFT-NH is committed to protecting the free speech of our members and we will vigorously defend their rights” stated Attorney Terri Donovan of AFT-NH, who represented the local Union.
She stated further, “The employees in Pittsfield negotiated a contract with a pay freeze and increased contribution to health insurance and the actions by the Board of Selectmen not to honor the provisions of the contract and long standing practices were egregious violations of good faith negotiations.”
Mr. Walter stated, “While I am very pleased with the result it is unfortunate that during the course of this litigation we have lost at least two long term and valuable employees from our bargaining unit. The Town invests in training employees and when you lose veteran employees, the Town loses valuable experience and knowledge for the citizens of Pittsfield.”
“AFT-NH is the State Affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. The AFT has over one million members with nearly 4,000 members in New Hampshire. AFT-NH represents the Pittsfield Town Employees, AFT Local #6214.