MANCHESTER, NH November 14, 2021--Despite the expiration of eight collective bargaining agreements covering hundreds of unionized employees, the city of Manchester is still paying “step” and “longevity” pay raises, Girard at Large has learned.
“Step” raises are automatically given to qualifying employees on the anniversary of their hiring. “Longevity” raises are typically granted to employees on every fifth employment anniversary. Step raises are typically 3% and granted to employees with less than 15 years of service. Longevity raises are typically 3%, though they can be as high as 5% and are granted in addition to a step raise where the two coincide, depending on the bargaining unit.
Because these raises are “mandatory subjects of bargaining” and contract cost items, the city is not required to continue paying them after a contract expires. Dating back to the mid-1990s, when Mayor Raymond J. Wieczorek froze paying step and longevity raises in expired contracts, the city’s general practice since has been to not pay them as a mechanism to encourage the unions to bargain in good faith for a new contract.
A review of the collective bargaining agreements on the city’s Web site shows that those covering the city’s firefighters and supervisors, Health Department workers (including school nurses), Water Works employees, laborers in the Highway, Parks, Environmental Protection, and Facilities divisions of the Public Works Department, and employees in the Central Fleet Maintenance Department expired on June 31, 2021.
On Tuesday, November 9th, Girard at Large emailed Manchester Human Resources Kathleen Ferguson to confirm the expiration of the contracts and ask whether or not steps or COLAs (cost of living raises, which are given in addition to step and longevity raises) are being paid. If they were, she was asked for any action of the board authorizing the continued payment of these raises.
She answered that there were “no COLA’s (sic) paid on expired contracts.” She wrote that the “City Solicitor’s (sic) is working on the information.”
As of this writing, there has been no response from the solicitor’s office. However, Girard at Large has learned that the budget proposed by Mayor Joyce Craig and the one approved by the Board of Aldermen did contain funding to continue the raises as if they contracts remained in force. Aside from this, we have yet to find any action of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen authorizing the continued payment of these raises in the expired contracts. In the absence of a vote authorizing their continuation, the default position is that they are not given in expired contracts.