Last month we reported that the SEA filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint (ULP) against the State related to the loss of certain shift differential pay for workers across Departments. We are sad to report that to date, the State has stalled the process to resolve this issue at every turn.
Last fall, through simple memo, the State unilaterally rescinded the long standing practice of paying certain employees what is known as shift differential pay at all, reduced what they pay for others, and or paying employees a premium (additional hourly wages) to work undesirable shifts. There are many job classifications within numerous state agencies that require round the clock staffing, for instance road crews that provide plowing services, law enforcement, emergency services, and direct care health facilities, such as New Hampshire Hospital and Veterans’ Homes.
The State cannot legally make unilateral changes to the terms and conditions of employment, which include wages, because they are mandatory subjects of collective bargaining. Shift differentials are specifically addressed and the contract includes a provision to jointly clarify and administer the contract; a process followed successfully just one month prior about a similar issue.
The SEA immediately objected to this flagrant disregard for the Executive Branch Master Contract and began to exercise members’ right to properly address the issue through the established grievance mechanism.
The State failed to participate in the grievance process which effectively left the SEA with no choice but to file the ULP. Since the filing, the State has been filing motions to stay (put off) or dismiss the ULP. Simply put, the State is denying members’ rights and is putting up roadblocks each step of the way. The end result of their stall tactics is employees are continuing to suffer.
“We are absolutely struggling,” said Shelley Elmes, Ch. 4. “I’m a lower labor grade and this really hurts. We live paycheck to paycheck as it is. The little bit of money that is owed to me, I really need. It’s my money and I want it.”
Shelley also made it clear that she is not alone. Many of her co-workers are in the same boat at New Hampshire Hospital. “And I know it’s the same for people in other departments,” she said. “It’s not fair. It’s in our contract. We don’t understand. How can somebody go and change that? We’re confused and hurting out here.”
While the shift differential may not matter much to the State, it certainly matters to employees. Workers like Shelley need to know if this can be remedied and the pay restored so they can figure out if this cut in their family budget is permanent or not. “This is absolutely affecting my ability to budget,” Shelley said. “Once I pay my oil bill, I know another one’s coming. And I worry how it’s going to be paid. The shift differential really means a lot to me, it may not seem like much to the State, but it does to the ‘little people’ like me.”
“Workers can’t keep telling their landlord, their fuel company, or their kids that things will be better soon if they will not be. They deserve the chance to responsibly manage their budgets and futures, and they certainly deserve more respect than having their employer constantly dance through legal maneuvering simply to avoid a final decision being made,” said Diana Lacey, SEA President. “The State is doing everything in its power to get away with cutting workers’ pay and trying to block access to fair and lawful remedies workers have a right to.”