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Unions pan NH proposal as management power grab

Norma Love, Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire's labor unions are criticizing legislation that would give public employers more control in the collective bargaining process as a power grab.

Senate President Peter Bragdon, a Milford Republican, told the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee on Wednesday that his bill was not intended to do the dire things the unions fear. He proposes giving public employers the right to determine standards for evaluation, selection, layoff and retention, discipline, assignment and transfer.

"The actual process of all these things is still subject to negotiations," Bragdon said.

Bragdon said he filed the bill over a concern that local school boards would lose control of the teacher evaluation process under a proposed change in the state's administration of federal law. Dean Michener of the New Hampshire School Boards Association said the state has since backed away from requiring local communities from adopting a model evaluation process.

Union representatives said the issues outlined in Bragdon's bill have been subject to negotiations for 40 years.

Glenn Milner, attorney for the Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire, said unions have negotiated standards in contracts, not just processes. For example, a disciplinary standard could be whether an employee's termination requires the employer to show just cause, he said.

"It is a radical piece of legislation that upsets the apple cart and takes the state back 40 years," he said.

Betsy Miller, executive director of the New Hampshire Association of Counties, said her group supports anything that increases managerial prerogative. The changes — if adopted — would give more authority to managers, she said.

"It guts much of collective bargaining and much of the collective bargaining agreements in existence," said James Allmenginger, attorney for NEA New Hampshire.

He said it would end bargaining on the subject areas outlined in the bill.

Harriet Spencer, New Hampshire coordinator for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said agreements will be difficult to negotiate if management can dictate the standards without any give-and-take with unions.