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Hillsboro-Deering School Board Found To Be Negotiating In “Bad Faith”

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Contract negotiations is a delicate art form.  There is always a little pushing and pulling from both sides.  Good negotiators can get what they want without giving up too much.  When negotiating contracts both sides have a duty to openly and honestly bargain.  We call this ‘bargaining in good faith’.

To bargain in good faith means that both sides will work to find common ground, and will abide by the terms agreed to in the negotiating process.  The ability to trust the other side is key to the negotiating process.  Sometimes, this trust is lost.  When that happens, one side gets burned.  In negotiating terms we call this ‘bad faith bargaining’.  Bargaining in bad faith means that you never intended to follow through on the actions you agreed to in the negotiation process.

The Hillsboro-Deering School Board (HDSB) was charged with bad faith bargaining earlier this year.  The New Hampshire Labor News covered the story back in January of how the HDSB failed to vote on the contract their negotiating team had agreed to.   The main context of the unfair labor practice filed against the HDSD is that their lead negotiator, and school board chairperson, failed to advocated for the agreed upon contract.

On June 28th the New Hampshire Public Employees Labor Relations Board (NH PELRB) issued a ruling that the Hillsboro-Deering School District did negotiate in ‘bad faith’.

“The School Board committed an unfair labor practice in violation of RSA 273-A:5, I (e) when it failed to vote on ratification of the tentative agreement and when its negotiating team member failed to support the agreement during the ratification meeting as required under the ground rules, the statute, and PELRB decisions.”

Attorney Terri Donovan, Director of Collective Bargaining and Field Services for AFT-NH, explained importance of this decision.

“This decision is important because it clearly lays out in a comprehensive decision from the NH PELRB  the elements of good faith bargaining and the responsibilities of negotiating teams. As we enter into negotiations for a successor agreement, it is the hope of the Union that the School Board will not only understand their obligations but negotiate in good faith going forward.”

As previously stated, negotiating is a delicate process of give and take.  Without trust from both sides we would never be able to reach an agreement.  Without an agreement, nobody is happy.

Here is the full decision by the NH PELRB.

NHLN Exclusive: AFT-NH Takes Pittsfield ‘FREE SPEECH’ Case To The NH PELRB And WINS!

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 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.

Read the full NH PLRB decision here.

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