Non-union staff to get 2 percent salary increase

By AbKessler
On November 16, 2012

After a lengthy two-year negotiation, the University of New Hampshire finally reached an agreement on a revised employee contract.

Non-union staff will see the benefits of the contract through a 2 percent salary increase, as well as a restoration of one percentage point to retirement savings plans, which will both go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.

The increase encompasses all benefits-eligible positions including professional and technical, academic administrators, operating staff, Extension educators, and faculty and librarians.

"The settlement of the contract with the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors last spring has improved our ability to recruit and retain the outstanding faculty who are the heart of a University of New Hampshire education," President Mark Huddleston said in a press release.

Dick Cannon, vice president of finance and administration, commented that after state-level funding to the university was slashed last year, administrators offered early retirement incentives that left positions vacant.

The unfilled positions required employees to work harder in order to serve students, sponsors and others who depend on UNH expertise.

"We agreed to salary increases for both faculty and staff to reward all for their important and continuing contributions even in the face of these cuts in funding. And also to stay competitive with the set of universities we compare ourselves to," Cannon said.

He also noted that in addition to the 2 percent increase in salaries, there will also be merit and equity awards made from a pool equal to .75 percent of the salary base.

Although the increase is generally welcomed by staff members, some believe it is not substantial enough.

"The faculty doesn't have a voice in staff raises, so we are disconnected from the decisions being made about us," said Deanna Wood, reference librarian.

Wood said she does not feel like the 2 percent increase in salary is adequate, due to the rate at which inflation has risen.

"Anybody who has been grocery shopping lately knows that food prices have risen and inflation is having an impact that 2 percent doesn't cover," Wood said.

She said she hopes with the reshuffling of the state government that Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan will restore funding to higher education institutions and that the university will, in turn, seriously reconsider augmenting non-union staff salaries.

"Faculty and staff are vital to this university. We shouldn't be nickel and dimed," Wood said.

Health-care increase

In addition, the new contract will also shift a higher percentage of health insurance costs to employees, in an attempt to minimize the university's health-care expenditure.  

Health insurance premiums for employees covered by Harvard Pilgrim will increase by 2.5 percent with Delta Dental increasing 1.22 percent, which will both go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.

"The employee population will experience a small increase in premiums this year, but much less than the anticipated increased in the marketplace of 7 percent," Cannon said in an email.

According to Cannon, the university has made strides to educate employees about the cost of services and the wide range of choices they are making related to their health care.

Cannon noted that many UNH healthy living initiatives and programs have been launched in tandem with Harvard Pilgrim to encourage employees to know their health risks and work with providers to manage those symptoms to reach an optimal state of well-being.

"The increase in healthcare premiums will have limited effect on employees' pay in conjunction with the increase they will receive," Cannon said.

However, Wood felt that the increase in health-care costs zeroed out the salary increase that much of the faculty will receive.

"Depending on how much health care you use, faculty will actually be spending more this year due to those increased expenses," Wood said.

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