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Lynch tells agencies to ready layoff plans

State negotiating with unions to cut $50m in costs

By Norma Love
Associated Press / July 16, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. - Governor John Lynch directed state agency heads yesterday to develop contingency plans to lay off potentially hundreds of state workers if negotiations with their union fail to produce $50 million in savings.

Lynch’s budget director John Beardmore requested responses by Aug. 8. He said implementation potentially would be Sept. 8. The layoffs would be in addition to an as yet unknown number of layoffs from budget cuts.

The governor’s office said that so far they know of about 130 executive branch layoffs from budget cuts, but more are likely as agencies comply with cuts whose amounts were specified, but not the programs to be cut.

The state budget requires Lynch to save $50 million in personnel costs with $20 million coming from state tax funded accounts.

The budget requires that an agreement with the union must implement the savings by Sept. 1 or the governor must cut labor costs by Dec. 1. Lynch hopes to achieve the savings through negotiations with unions representing the workers but no deals have been reached yet.

“We’ve sent the letter to department heads so they can take the proper steps,’’ said Lynch spokesman Colin Manning. “We’re still working with the unions so we can avoid further layoffs.’’

State Employees’ Association president Diana Lacey said the sides have tentatively agreed to ways to save the $50 million, but have no agreement on union job security issues. She said they have about a month to work out a deal to avoid layoffs.

The union represents most of New Hampshire’s approximately 11,000 employees.

“We’ve addressed the $50 million and now we’re hoping the governor’s team will pay much-needed attention to the employees’ priorities,’’ said Lacey.

She declined to discuss the specifics of the tentative agreements on the $50 million but said it involved wages and benefits.

Lynch had made it clear in his February budget address that he wanted the next contract with the workers to include changes in health benefits to save money.

Lacey said the union addressed that priority but now wants Lynch to include workers’ rights provisions in the contract, such as seniority rights and access to health care after being laid off.

She said the Republican-controlled Legislature overrode longstanding personnel rules in the budget package to limit workers’ rights when it eliminated 1,100 vacant positions and laid off workers.

Lacey said the union wants to put those rules in the contract to protect them from being suspended again.