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County was unwilling to look at fixed amount raises at home

To The Daily Sun,

Some have expressed surprise and disappointment with the Belknap County Nursing Home employees' rejection of the tentative contract agreement they were asked to consider. They have questioned why the Department of Corrections employees unanimously accepted the same contract. Simply put, a one-size-fits-all option does not work in contract negotiations.

Here's why:

— The starting pay for LNA's at Belknap County Nursing Home is $12.07 per hour. There are numerous other bargaining unit positions that start at $10.61 per hour and reach only $14.69 an hour at the final step increase for the position. This means, the employee who has the most seniority and experience has no ability to increase their wages unless there is a cost of living increase. Twenty percent of the employees in the unit are "maxed out," and therefore not eligible for the 3 percent step raise offered in the tentative agreement. The actual COLA being offered is only 1.4 percent.

— The savings on the proposed health insurance changes on a family plan participant for the county is $5,600 per year. This means that the county was only passing on about $1,300 in wage increases to Nursing Home employees (if they earned both the 1.4 percent COLA and 3 percent Step.) As we have said, 20 percent of the employees would not receive that full benefit.

Conversely, the jail employees, who we also represent, earn an average of $20 hour in wages. The dollar amount of their increase is higher. More are eligible for the 3 percent step raise, leaving them better able to make ends meet due to the added health insurance deductible of $1,000 for a single person, $2,000 for two people and $3,000 for family plans. Percentage-based raises are more advantageous to higher wage earners in exchange for health insurance concessions.

The county was unwilling to try a different approach in negotiations with the Nursing Home workers, such as a fixed-raise amounts vs percentage-based, a health reimbursement arrangement instead of health insurance stipend, or adjusting the wage scale for lower wage earners. In essence, they refused to think outside of the traditional contract box at the expense of their loyal employees.

The county was also unwilling to present a tentative agreement that required any cost appropriation. They insisted on a dollar-neutral contract or a contract that resulted in a savings to the employer.

In the case of the employees at the Belknap County Nursing Home, this was not a viable contract choice.

We look forward to re-entering negotiations and request that the county consider some of these points when they return to the table.

Richard Gulla, President

SEA/SEIU Local 1984

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Please visit our Gilford PTA's Online Scholarship Fund Drive

To The Daily Sun,

Dwindling interest, lack of parent involvement, insufficient resources. Is this the way we want to describe our community and schools? Of course not! Yet, without your help, Gilford PTA faces these very struggles.

Did you know that we used to hand out nearly$7,500 in scholarships? That number has dwindled, because of a lack of funds, to often less than $2,000 annually. Did you know that our enrollment used to number well over 100 members, and now we are down to 40-70 members annually? Did you also know that a few years back we almost had to shut down the PTA for lack of interest and resources?

The good news is that this PTA can and will be revived with your help! And it only takes two steps:

First, if you are not a member of the Gilford District PTA yet, join us! It only costs $10 but those membership dollars are imperative to our programming. Dues support our scholarships for graduating seniors, summer camp opportunities for young children, the National Reflection Program, the district-wide spring poetry contest, the One School, One Book Event, supplemental technology equipment, literature for classrooms, and more! The organization, quite simply, can't work without members.

Second, please visit our Online Scholarship Fund Drive which runs from April 10 through April 15 at www.BiddingOwl.com/GilfordDistrictPTA. We have worked extremely hard to make this fundraiser accessible for all. Your generosity will help us provide much deserved support to the students in our community. The funds from this auction will help us fulfill the requests of 60-80 students looking to attend the school's summer program and to help our graduating seniors get that much closer to achieving their dreams. There are gifts and goodies for all tastes and budgets. Your generous contribution will go directly towards students in our community.

Involved, generous, inclusive. That is how we want our school and community to be described. Your contribution and involvement can get us there!

Virginia Johnson, Chair
Gilford District PTA Fundraiser

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