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A Story Of Bad Faith Negotiating, From Hillsboro-Deering Federation of Teachers (AFT-NH)

Have you ever been in a negotiation with someone and after you reach an agreement, the other side says they have changed their position?

This is commonly referred to in labor negotiations as ‘bad faith bargaining’.  Bad faith bargaining also refers to when the negotiators never plan to reach an agreement and yet they continue to negotiate.

Today the Hillsboro-Deering Federation of Teachers filed an Unfair Labor Practice against the Hillsoboro-Deering School Board for their actions in recent contract negotiations.

Terri Donovan,  Director of Field Services and Collective Bargaining informed the NH Labor News of how this came to be.

Both the School Board and the Teachers Federation came together to work on negotiations for a new contract in late October of 2012.  Both parties laid out their ground rules and proposed contract changes.

The School Board later came back to negotiations with a very clear mandate.

“The School Board negotiating team stated’ they would not settle a contract unless’ the Union agreed to remove the contractual evergreen clause.”

This was a complete shift from their previous contracts which included an ‘Evergreen’ clause since the late 90s.  The Evergreen Clause continues the current contract until a new contract is negotiated, even after the expiration of the current contract and teachers are granted steps based on experience.

Richard Pelletier, School Board Chairman and negotiating team member tried to say that the board promised the voters that they would not approve another contract with an evergreen clause in it.  After much research there is still no proof this every happened.  In an apparent act of defiance or indifference, the two school board members who are also on the negotiating team, opted not to attend the scheduled all day negotiations on Nov 28th.

Not long after this, the Union declared Impasse and moved into mediation with the School Board.  The School Board negotiating team and the Union negotiating team endured more than ten hours of tense mediation to finally come to an tentative agreement.  The tentative agreement also included an evergreen clause.

Just before the union was about to the union membership radification meeting and explain the changes to their contract, the HDFT President Diane Hines ran into Jean Mogan, School District Business Administrator and member of the School Board negotiating team in the school hallway.  Jean then informed Diane that “the School Board didn’t vote on the contract they couldn’t get a second to the motion”.  This means that even if the membership were to agree to the tentative contract, the School Board would not agree to it.

How could this happen? According to audio tapes of the HD School Board’s non-public session, School Board Chair Richard Pelletier stated that “A majority of the negotiating team.has agreed to a tentative agreement”.   When they returned for a public session HD School Board member and negotiating team member,  Nancy Egner Denu brought the motion up for a vote.  The remaining three members of the board refused to second the motion, essentially killing it.

This means the board never voted on the agreement. The public never heard the details of the agreement. Most importantly the public never heard that the majority of the board agreed to the tentative contract.

Richard Pelletier broke the ground rules laid out in the negotiations by refusing to advocate for the tentative agreement.

“Members of negotiating teams have an obligation to support tentative agreements when they present those agreements to their respective memberships for ratification”

The Union held a vote of no confidence in the HD School Board negotiating team and is now moving forward with an Unfair Labor Practice.

This is the true definition of bad faith bargaining.

(link to the ULP for reference and more details)

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