Board rejects library contract

NASHUA – Aldermen took about 30 minutes to kill a proposed two-year contract for Nashua Public Library workers.

The dismissal of the contract left library trustees Chairman Arthur Barrett “blindsided,” he said.

Barrett said the contract was available for review for weeks and no alderman expressed problems about the health coverage, which was one of the main sticking points for the board, until the last minute.

Aldermen voted 7-6 against the proposed contract Monday at a special meeting, and then repeated the vote to indefinitely postpone the measure.

Alderman-at-Large David Rootovich, who opposed the contract, said city taxpayers face the same concerns as library workers – low wage increases and rising health-care costs, and then on top of that, they must pay higher city taxes.

The contract covered the nearly 45 employees at the Nashua Public Library, local 4831 with Federation of Public Employees of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. The last contract expired at the end of June.

It offered workers an average of a 3 percent cost-of-living increase, along with revisions to the health-insurance coverage. The change in the health coverage required new employees to join a health maintenance organization, which library directors say is a cost savings to the bottom line.

Aldermen who objected to the city contract hit on the idea that the workers pay 5 percent of the medical coverage costs.

Barrett said the negotiations will have to start again. It will be unrealistic for the union to agree to a contract that requires higher health insurance payments and puts less money in the pockets of the workers, he said.

Library Director Joe Dionne said he was surprised aldermen rejected the proposal.

Negotiators followed the guidelines set by the Human Resources Department, which was to limit pay increase to 3 percent and move employees to the cheaper HMO program, he said.

Those guidelines were met and the contract was rejected, he said.

“I suppose people are demoralized,” he said.

Negotiators for the union, too, said they were taken aback by the aldermen’s actions. Linda Dougherty, an assistant librarian, said the union viewed the contract largely as a concession to management’s concerns.

Aldermen voting against the contract were: Alderman-at-Large David Deane, Alderman-at-Large Paula Johnson, Rootovich, Ward 8 Alderman David MacLaughlin, Ward 5 Alderman David Lozeau, Ward 3 Alderman Kevin Gage, Ward 6 Alderman Robert Dion.

Aldermen voting in favor of the contract were: Ward 1 Alderman Kathryn Vitale, Ward 2 Alderman Richard LaRose, Ward 7 Alderman Lori Cardin, Ward 4 Alderman Marc Plamondon, Ward 9 Alderman Robert Shaw, and Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy.

Alderman-at-Large Steve Bolton abstained. Alderman-at-Large Jim Tollner was absent.

Barrett said the next step will be to reopen negotiations for another contract.