RSA 273-A:12 FACTFINDING PROCEEDING In the Matter of Factfinding for Agreement between:







  1. Introduction

In accordance with New Hampshire RSA 273-A:12 the  Manchester School Board (“School Board” or “School District” or “Employer”) and the Manchester Education Association affiliated with NEA-NH (“MEA” or “Association”) participated in a Factfinding session on June 3, 2019 with the School Board represented by attorney Matthew H. Upton and the Union represented by attorney James Allmendinger.  This Factfinding followed a protracted series of negotiations and mediation.  The parties jointly agreed that, notwithstanding the numerous unresolved issues between the parties, they would limit the presentation of this Factfinding proceeding to a minimum number of issues (as later set forth, therein) with the understanding that this Factfinder’s Report and Recommendation would be issued on or before June 10, 2019 and the respective parties may proceed as allowed by law.[1]

  1. Factfinding Hearing

The School Board presented evidence by way of documents and testimony of School Board member Richard Girard with three other members present and participating, including Jimmy Lehoux,  Katie Derochers and Sarah Ambrogi.  The Association presented evidence also by way of documentation and testimony of Sue Hannan, Maxine Mosley and Michelle Couture.  Upon the conclusion of the session, it was agreed that this report would focus on the following four issues and make a recommendation with respect to each of them and remand to the parties all other issues which have not been resolved for further negotiations, notwithstanding an agreement on these recommendations.

  • Background

Given the abbreviated amount of time for the presentation of the evidence and the preparation of this report, only a miniscule amount of time was spent on the history of negotiations.  The key point was that for the past school year the School Board and the Association have been operating without any agreement whatsoever.  This has left both sides frustrated and angry with plenty of finger pointing.  Most importantly it has meant that none of the teachers received any increase in pay for this lengthy period of time, including step increases which have for eons been a standard benefit for public school teachers.  It has also produced a situation where a newly hired teacher who came into the system with years of experience elsewhere is being paid significantly more than a teacher with the same number of years of experience but whose experience is strictly with the School District.  Needless to say this animosity cannot be foisted on the newly hired teacher (it is not his or her fault), but is laser focused on the School Board.  It has produced a systemic disparity that is very difficult to resolve.  There are other factors which came to the fore during this Factfinding.  There is a public perception that teachers are abusing their sick leave benefit and the School Board has found it extremely difficult to find qualified substitute teachers and therefore shifted the uncovered students on to the teachers who show up for work.  This is hardly a healthy solution for the teachers, for the students, for School Board and for the citizens of Manchester.  This is a tinderbox situation which means that the outcome of these negotiations must not only meet the needs of the Association and the School Board but it also must stop a potential explosion of emotions which may very well affect all the citizens of the city.

  1. The Issues

There are four major obstacles for the parties to overcome in order to reach even a partial agreement: 

(1) Salaries and salary scale;

(2) Health Insurance;

(3) Paid time off versus sick leave;

(4) Pending State Legislation.

            Before turning to each of these issues, I caution the reader of this report to recognize that Factfinding and indeed the whole process of collective bargaining is a very conservative, slow-moving process. There are no quick fixes in this business and I tell students who ask me about the process, that it is like steering a huge ship.  It turns slowly by degrees; it is a system that values existing working conditions and one that reluctantly attempts new directions.  Collective bargaining means that you have to convince the other side that it is in their interest to accept a change:  sometimes the change is a benefit in and of itself, but in other instances the change is gained by granting a different, but sought after benefit of such value that the employee is willing to accept the change in order to get something he or she wants.

            Salary and Salary Scale

            On the issue of salary, the parties have attempted to figure out a method for correcting the years of stagnation on the salary scale.  On January 3, 2019 the Association presented a salary scale which covered four fiscal years: FY 20 through FY 23.  The Association’s effort was to bring all the teachers into an acceptable set of steps and cost of living increases.  The School Board responded on February 7, 2019 and made some changes to the four year roll-out of steps and raises.  The School Board’s counter proposal is attached hereto as Exhibit A.  The School Board made the offer contingent on the Association agreeing to the School Board’s proposals concerning health insurance and paid time off.  It was only through these “give backs” that the School Board could afford the compensation envisioned by their February 7, 2019. Without those give backs, the School Board would have to broach the Mayor and Alderman for funds that would require them to vote to exceed the City’s very strict tax cap, something the School Board doubted the Mayor and Alderman would approve.   

            While the Association has not given on all aspects of the remaining issues in dispute, there has been sufficient give and take on the remaining issues that whatever the excess cost is to implement the School Board’s February 7, 2019 salary proposal, I recommend it.  This is a case where getting the School Board to where they want to be will take all of the four years that this salary will be in effect. But if this is the cost of making a peaceful transition to a worthwhile and workable salary scale, I doubt that as of June 30, 2023 anyone will be upset that this recommendation has brought four years of salary peace.  I recommend the salary schedule as attached hereto as Appendix A.

            Health Insurance

            The School Board has proposed an 80%/20% split on health insurance, thereby increasing the teachers portion from their current premium contribution of 15%.  The School Board also seeks to install a “Site of Service Network” option within the health insurance program whereby the School District’s share is based on the cost of the “site of service” network.  The School Board points out that other bargaining units within the district have moved to the 80/20 premium split and using the site of service model. Even under these restrictions the School Board contends that the District’s health insurance program is both generous but reasonably cost saving.

The Association points out that going cold turkey from the current 85%/15% cost sharing will saddle some (an unknown number) teachers with actually losing pay. Surely such a situation could not sit well with those teachers and all the other teachers would stand by them.  The Association would agree to the Site of Service program provided the largest hospitals in Manchester, CMC and Elliot Hospital, were included in such an insurance program.  Also during the course of the Factfinding, the Association recognized that given the tenor of the times and the situation with other bargaining units, the time has come to recognize the legitimacy of the School Board’s need to pass on more health care cost on to employees.  The Association agreed that it there were a more gradual shift to the 80%/20% cost sharing split, the teachers could accept that.

            I recommend that since Elliot Hospital is included within the network that the Site of Service Health Insurance program should be implemented in the first year of the agreement.  I recommend this notwithstanding the fact that Elliot Hospital is not included within the network for labs and imaging because teachers should be able to readily access other providers of such services which are included within the network.  It is also recommended that the School Board continue their efforts to bring Elliot Hospital and CMC into the network for all medical purposes.   In terms of moving to increased premiums sharing by teachers, I recommend that the following percentages be adopted:



































Paid Time Off versus Sick Leave  

            The School Board proposed the elimination of sick leave and the accrual of sick leave and the adoption of a strict paid time off (“PTO”) proposal[2]whereby each teacher would be entitled to 11 days of paid time off, which would include all of their excused time off including sick leave, personal leave, Association leave,  sick leave bank and such other time off except professional development days and bereavement leave, as currently provided in the Agreement. In place of the use of accrued sick leave the School Board proposed as an adjunct to the 11 days of paid time off, a short-term disability policy which would pay 60% of an employee’s salary (federal income tax free) which would cover the teacher after 14 days of sickness/disability and for up to 26 weeks.  If a teacher remained disabled after 26 weeks, the teacher would be eligible for long-term disability until Social Security retirement age.  The School Board proposed that any teacher with accrued sick leave as of June 30, 2019 would be eligible for a full pay out of their accrued sick leave after twenty years of service in the School District.  The Association’s response to this proposal was short and sweet:  The teachers would have none of it.

            The School Board’s rationale was two-fold.  First the accrued sick leave amounted to an unfunded liability and when the General Accounting Standards Board requires all employers to fund same, Manchester will be hard pressed not to raise taxes precipitously and with great citizen anger.  The second leg of the School Board’s proposal is that there is a problem with excessive use of sick leave.  Teachers using sick leave, when coupled with the extreme difficulty the School Board has hiring substitutes, has a direct and dramatic effect on student education.   The Association insists that the teachers are not using an excessive amount of sick leave, but if the School Board believes such, then it should deal with that issue rather than remove sick leave as a benefit that all teachers count on, including the sick leave bank, as a form of insurance. 

            My take on this is that going from an accrued sick leave based system to a short-term/long-term disability system with paid time off is a dramatic change in working conditions.  This system needs to be fully explored and explained, not just at the bargaining table, but to all of the teachers in some group format. No teacher is going to vote in favor of removing a fundamental benefit that is directly administered by the School District to jump into an insurance-like agreement administered by a third party vendor.  This is a process that needs to be fully and carefully explained and accompanied by a plethora of incentives and assurances. 

            This is not to say that the Association should sit back and pretend that there is no problem with certain teachers taking advantage of the School Board’s liberal sick leave policy and milking it to the detriment of the students, the School administrators and their fellow teachers.  The Association should take a leading role in making those abusers feel uncomfortable and guilty at their respective schools.  The Association and the teachers know who the miscreant sick leave abusers are and a coordinated shunning and shaming may go a long way to changing behavior, but that takes courage and fortitude for teachers to effectively discipline their own. If they do not, the School Board will continue to push for PTO in lieu of accrued sick leave and the danger of more constraints on salary and benefits will certainly loom over the teachers’ future.   

            My recommendation on this issue is that the parties continue negotiations on the issue of providing PTO in lieu of sick leave, but for now I am unwilling to recommend wholesale adoption of a PTO in lieu of accrued sick leave.  The Association should read the tea leaves on this subject and engage accordingly.

Pending State Legislation

            This is a subject that was brought up at the last minute of the Factfinding, namely:  “What if the State Legislature gives the School Board a ton of money? “  The School Board acknowledged that there is legislation pending in Concord which could provide the City of Manchester money to be used solely for educational purposes.  The chances of this amounting to a “ton” of money is very doubtful. However if Manchester is at the end of the rainbow from Concord, I agree that the Association should not be bound to the modest salary increases as currently proposed by the recommended salary schedule set forth in Appendix A.  My divining of the future with some help from the School Board and the Association suggests that a figure of $7.5 million should be the trigger point.  Therefore my recommendation is that if, during any of the next four fiscal years, the State legislature funds Manchester with funds earmarked for education in excess of $7.5 million, the Association may reopen the salary provisions for any succeeding fiscal year of any Agreement adopting these recommendations.  If the Association reopens the salary provisions, the School District may reopen the provisions on sick leave, sick leave accrual and sick leave bank.

Concluding Comments

            As previously stated, collective bargaining including factfinding is a slow moving, conservative and time-consuming process.  It is not designed for radical changes in terms and conditions of employment, but it does not shun change as circumstances develop.  Employers and employees are entitled to be treated fairly and with mutual respect.  The real test for this process is whether the general public views the ultimate agreement as a fair balance between the needs of the School Board and is fair to the teachers.  No agreement is perfect and there will certainly be protests and criticism from both sides of the table for these recommendations.  However, notwithstanding thesecries of shortcomings, I make these recommendations for the sake of settling a protracted dispute.


Date:  June 12, 2019                                               /s/James S. Cooper  

                                                                                    James S. Cooper



[1]New Hampshire RSA 273-A:12 provides in relevant part, as follows:

  • I. (b) … [A] neutral party chosen by the parties …shall make and report findings of fact together with recommendations for resolving each of the issues remaining in dispute, which findings and recommendations shall not be made public until the negotiating teams shall have considered them for 10 days.
  • II. If either negotiating team rejects the neutral party’s recommendation, his findings and recommendations shall be submitted to the full membership of the employee organization and to the board of the pubic employer, which shall vote to accept or reject so much of his recommendations as is otherwise permitted by law.


  • III. (a) If either the full membership of the employee organization or the board of the public employer rejects the neutral party’s recommendations, the findings and recommendations shall be submitted to the legislative body or public employer at the next annual meeting of the legislative body… which shall vote to accept or reject so much of the recommendations as otherwise permitted by law,


                  (b) If the public employer is a local political subdivision with a city or town council form of government and if either the full membership of the employee organization or the board of the public employer rejects the neutral party’s recommendation, the findings and recommendation shall be submitted within 30 days to the city council or alderman or town council for approval. Within 30 days of receipt of the submission, the city council or aldermen or town council shall vote to accept or reject the recommendations as otherwise is permitted by law.


[2]A full explanation of all of the benefits and liabilities of the Paid Time Off  program is well beyond this simplified explanation of the School Board’s proposal.