Concord Monitor - SEA plans furlough offer to cut budget Page 1 of 2
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Article published on May 02, 2009
SEA plans furlough offer to cut budget
Some employees say they can't afford it
By CHELSEA CONABOY
May 02, 2009
If it would save their jobs or their coworkers', some state employees said they would gladly take a week or two of unpaid leave. Others
said they simply couldn't afford to.
The State Employees' Association plans to propose to lawmakers and negotiators that its 11,000 members take voluntary furloughs, or
days of unpaid leave, in lieu of layoffs. The union faces tough contract negotiations amid legislative efforts to close a more than $500
million state deficit.
The actual cost savings of those furloughs, however, could be minimal.
Gov. John Lynch had proposed laying off up to 300 state employees to help close the gap, though the version of the budget approved by
the House reduced that. Lawmakers are considering other measures, including requiring state employees and retirees to pay more for
their health care.
On Wednesday, the union's decision makers, called the "bargaining Senate," voted to support a negotiating plan that would "save jobs
through voluntary unpaid leaves of absence," according to a memo sent out via e-mail to members.
The group will take that proposal to lawmakers and state bargainers, while also trying to convince them that they are looking to put too
much of the burden on the backs of state employees.
"We want to be part of the solution," said SEA Vice President Diana Lacey, "but we cannot be the sacrificial lamb."
The union has not estimated how many of its members would take furloughs or exactly how much money could be saved. According to
data from the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, it could be very little.
The total salary and wages expected to be paid to full-time state employees this year is about $580 million, not including overtime. If all
11,000 employees took a one-day furlough, that would save about $2.2 million. But about half of that money comes from federal grants
or other sources, not the state's general fund.
A system-wide, week-long furlough would save only about $5.5 million in general fund money - or less than 1 percent of the annual
Legislators would also have to weigh the question of who and how many people would take the voluntary furloughs, said Steve Norton,
executive director of the nonpartisan center.
"To sacrifice a day a month to keep fellow employees employed? I would be willing to sacrifice that," said Steve Eccleston, who manages
Concord Monitor - SEA plans furlough offer to cut budget Page 2 of 2
the license plate shop for the Department of Corrections and has worked for the state for 18 years.
But, he said, he doesn't think he could do much more than that.
John Liptak, who works in the Department of Environmental Services Hazardous Waste Division, said he thinks a lot of people would
volunteer. When someone in the office has a long illness and runs out of sick time, people are quick to volunteer their own sick time to
help, he said.
Liptak wouldn't be among volunteers, he said. His wife can't work and his 25-year-old son just moved into their home after losing his own
"I like the idea of doing it, but I really couldn't afford it given my financial situation," Liptak said.
Melanie Doiron, a solid waste inspector for Environmental Services, said she doesn't like the idea of furloughs at all.
"That's using state employees to balance the budget," she said. "I don't believe in that."
Lacey said state bargainers have suggested requiring mandatory furloughs of two days each month, though that would have to be
written into the contract, she said. The union is fighting that.
Asked whether furloughs could help reduce the need for layoffs, Lynch's spokesman Colin Manning said furloughs have been part of
discussions with the union for several months and will continue to be.
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