Public Employee Contract Revisions

Citizens Count Editor

Some lawmakers think that public employee unions have too much power over the government when it comes time for contract negotiations.  Over the years the Legislature has considered several ways to shift the balance of power in collective bargaining for public employees.

Adding legislative oversight

Some lawmakers support a measure that would give the Legislature the power to veto any collective bargaining agreement entered into by the state.

Supporters argue that legislative oversight would give the public a voice in contract negotiations.

Opponents of legislative oversight argue that it will simply slow down already lengthy and complex contract negotiations.  Gov. Hassan's 2013 public employee contract negotiations took almost a year.

Eliminating the "evergreen clause"

An "evergreen clause" in public employee contracts allows provisions of an expired contract to continue while contracts are being negotiated. Those provisions can include wage step increases, cost of living allowances, etc. In 2011 the state Legislature passed SB1, which eliminated the clause from public contracts. 

Critics of SB1 said the state should not be involved in negotiations between towns and their public employee unions.

Those who favored the bill said it would help eliminate expenses that cities and towns were otherwise forced to accept without approval.

Making public workers "at-will" employees

In 2011 the Legislature also looked at a proposal that would make public workers "at-will" employees if their contracts expire without any kind of renewal.

The measure was added as an amendment to the state budget by the House Finance Committee.  The amendment stated that after a contract expires, public workers "shall become at-will employees whose salaries, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment shall be at the discretion of the employer."

The sponsor of the measure, Rep. Neal Kurk (R-Weare), said the legislation would motivate public employee unions to settle contracts quickly and affordably, or else give their employers the power to set wages and benefits.

Opponents of the measure argued that it gave too much power to employers, and might even create an incentive for employers to reject contract renewals.

The Senate Finance Committee ultimately removed the "at-will" proposal from the budget. Committee Chairman Chuck Morse said that policy committees can decide on union issues, while the budget panel will stick to budget items.

Related Issues

The large unfunded liability in the New Hampshire Retirement System may affect future benefits for public employees. 

Learn more about the New Hampshire Retirement System

New Hampshire has also debated becoming a right-to-work state, which would affect public employee unions. 

Learn more about right-to-work in New Hampshire


Passed House

Allows the establishment of a public sector bargaining unit based on signed authorization cards from a majority of the members of the bargaining unit. This would replace the secret ballot process, but only when no other employee organization is lawfully recognized as the exclusive representative of the employees.

Killed in the House

Allows the Public Employees Labor Relations Board (PELRB) to award pain and suffering damages.

Passed House

Requires public employers to provide employees with at least the level of protection provided under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, and establishes an occupational safety and health advisory board.

Killed in the House

When the majority of members of collective bargaining unit have never voted on giving the unit exclusive bargaining power, this bill requires a new vote to recertify the unit.

In Committee

Provides that an individual bargaining unit may negotiate wages, terms, and conditions specific to that bargaining unit and that an individual bargaining unit shall not be forced into impasse proceedings by the declaration of impasse by another bargaining unit.

In Committee

Requires the Public Employee Labor Relations Board to certify an employee organization which receives a majority written authorization for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Passed House

Allows an employee organization (such as a union) to conduct an election by mail ballot.

Passed House

Establishes the Legislature as a public employer under the Public Employee Labor Relations Act and establishes procedures for collective bargaining by nonpartisan legislative employees. This bill also requires the Joint Committee on Legislative Facilities to adopt and enforce a policy against sexual and other unlawful harassment and discrimination and provide mandatory training on the policy for legislators and legislative staff. The House amended the bill to remove the requirements regarding sexual harassment and discrimination.

Vetoed by Governor

Allows a public employee to specify voluntary deductions from wages for an insurance or employee benefit.

Interim Study

Requires all state government employers to develop a written policy to prohibit "abusive conduct in the workplace," such as "constant and harsh displays of disrespect." The policy must include a process for investigating complaints and an appeals process with the Labor Commissioner.

Killed in the House

Establishes the Legislature as a public employer under the Public Employee Labor Relations Act and establishes procedures for collective bargaining by nonpartisan legislative employees.

Killed in the House

Prohibits the state entity from providing any accounting service or payroll deduction on behalf of a private corporation or organization. This would apply to deductions for United Way, supplemental insurances, and union dues/agency fees.

Interim Study

Requires a public employer who does not appoint a veteran or disabled veteran to a position to provide information on other public employment positions for which the veteran or disabled veteran may be qualified.

Signed by Governor

Establishes a hiring preference for laid off classified state employees.

Killed in the House

Adds the Legislature to the definition of public employer.

Interim Study

Provides that project labor agreements shall not be included in government construction contracts.

Killed in the House

Establishes a commission to study if different public employee collective bargaining procedures should be used for different categories of public employees.

Killed in the Senate

Requires the state to negotiate with each bargaining unit separately, rather than with a committee with representatives from multiple bargaining units.

Killed in the House

Gives the legislature power to review collective bargaining agreements entered into by the state.

Vetoed by Governor

Requires legislative approval of any collective bargaining agreement entered into by the state.

Law Without Signature

Eliminates "evergreen clauses" in public contracts.

Should NH revise the laws governing collective bargaining to shift more power to the state?


- Stratham

Fri, 04/16/2010 - 12:00am

A blog entry earlier this week discussed ways to reduce public sector salaries. My question is: how many public sector jobs can be outsourced to the private sector? There are a few potential wins here: short term: a) the private sector tends to be more efficient - by bidding out accounting, janitorial, health services, food services at schools, back office services in state and local depts, and many many other areas, can we reduce our public sector costs today? b) private sector companies receiving these contracts would then pay more in business franchise taxes with this increase revenue. Long term: a reduction on the long term cost to the taxpayer with retirement and othe benefits as the jobs are transferred to the private sector using 401(k) type benefits. My guess? Half of the state and local public sector jobs could be outsourced to the private sector. Certainly not local police, state troopers, AG, and Governor's office personnel to name some non-starters. But really, what public service MUST be performed by public employees?


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Issue Status

New Hampshire's public employee unions and Gov. Chris Sununu are in a standoff over contract negotiations. Both parties have received a fact-finding report from an independent assessor, which recommended a 4% raise. The governor and the union continue to be at loggerheads over an agreement.


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