The protests in Wisconsin may have stolen news headlines this winter, but a quiet political persecution of public employees has also been playing out in New Hampshire.
The New Hampshire Finance Committee in the House of Representatives this week approved a change to the state collective bargaining laws that would turn all public sector employees “at will” when their contracts expire.
The amendment states that after contracts expire, “salaries, benefits and terms and conditions of employment will be at the discretion of the employer.”
Rep. Neal Kurk (R) who introduced the bill was quoted in the Concord Monitor as saying, “If unions who couldn't agree (on a contract) knew that wages, retirement benefits and health care benefits would be at the discretion of the employer, we'd see a much more rapid settlement of contracts, and some of the exceptionally expensive fringe benefits including medical care and pensions would be resolved in a way that made them more affordable."
The change in the collective bargaining law is just a slice of the hostility directed towards public employees and labor unions this political session in New Hampshire including the House passing right to work legislation.
The House also passed a state pension plan that promises to turn the retirement system upside down and will make it harder for fire departments to recruit new hires.
Public workers will now contribute more money to their pensions. Fire fighters are looking to pay 11.8 percent for their retirement contribution, up from 9.3 percent. In addition, any fire fighter who has worked less than 10 years will have to stay on the job for an extra five years.
The bill’s sponsor Sen. Jeb Bradley included a controversial provision specifying if part of the law is found unconstitutional in the New Hampshire Supreme Court, then the Legislature can increase employee payment rates by one percent.
And if public employees hadn’t been pounded enough, the New Hampshire Legislature passed a law that will make public employee salaries
retroactive. Fire fighters who work without a contract will see salaries frozen at their starting pay grade.
Fire fighters and other public employees are fired up. They are ready for the next election cycle to toss the members in the New Hampshire state legislature who support laws that hurt hard-working families.