Nursing home employees demonstrate in support of contract

LACONIA — Members of the New Hampshire State Employees Union joined forces yesterday afternoon to support the passage of a one-year contract approved recently by the Belknap County Commissioners.

With the vote by the Belknap County Delegation scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. last night, employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home and their supporters converged at the county offices.

Joining them were state Sen. Andrew Hosmer, D-Laconia, some members of the Belknap County Delegation including Republican Dennis Fields of Sanbornton and Tilton, and SEA President Diana Lacey.

"These are good folks and they run a good operation," said Hosmer. "They provide high quality care for our most vulnerable citizens."

Hosmer said the SEA has negotiated in good faith and has show a willingness to compromise.

The delegation has to approve the $336,170 money portion of the contract. The county budget adopted earlier this year level-funded the employee share of the health insurance benefits, but didn't provide any funding for wage increases or associated payroll costs.

Components of the $336,170 are $267,343 for health insurance, $22,361 for cost-of-living increases of 1.6 percent, $35,759 for merit increases for eligible employees of up to 2.1 percent, and $10,705 for associated payroll costs.

As part of the contract, employees agreed to pay an average of 15 percent of their premiums as opposed to 5 percent being paid under the "status quo" contract now in place.

As part of an incentive for keeping a lower premium payment, employees can participate in three of the health management programs in order to keep their premiums at the same level they are now.

By about 4 p.m. nearly 45 people had joined the picket line.

Organizers said they hope to keep people coming until the meeting a 6 p.m. when some of them plan to address the delegation.