CLAREMONT — About 50 to 60 city employees recently received the green light to decide whether to unionize following a resolution to a complaint filed by the City of Claremont, according to public records.
The agreement between the parties will allow many of Claremont’s full-time, merit-plan employees to schedule an election to decide whether to join the Teamsters Local 633 of New Hampshire, a collective bargaining organization representing groups across New Hampshire and in parts of Maine and Massachusetts.
“The organization behind this has been great,” said Keith Judge of Teamsters Local 633 of New Hampshire. “This would be our first group in the Claremont area and it will be nice to expand the representational territory of our region.”
The original petition for certification, filed by Teamsters Local 633 of New Hampshire in February, sought to form a new collective bargaining group representing 21 Claremont merit-plan positions, including clerks, administrators, librarians, and specialists.
The City of Claremont filed an objection to the petition in March. In the objection the city argued that several of these positions should not be eligible to join because their roles or individual duties might pose conflicts to a collective agreement.
On Friday, April 23, the city and Teamsters Local 633 of New Hampshire filed a mutual agreement to allow all but five or six supervisorial positions to consider joining the proposed union.
The excluded positions include the fire chief, deputy fire chief, city librarian, finance director, and treasurer / assistant finance director.
Judge said the exclusion of these positions is very common due to a federal law prohibiting supervisors and their supervisees from being in the same collective bargaining unit.
But the agreement rejects a second argument by the city, which contended that some positions, — such as certification requirements or work schedule — that make them too incompatible with others in the group to facilitate a collective agreement.
“There is no law saying that members of a collective bargaining group cannot be in different departments,” Judge said. “That criteria was just the city’s objection.”
According to Judge, the city made that argument to see if the New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB) would deny the petition to unionize, but the argument was rejected.
City Manager Ed Morris told The Eagle Times on Friday that the city’s argument primarily concerned the fire captain position, which differs from other positions in respect to working environment, benefits and schedule.
For example, the fire captain position cannot follow a traditional eight-hour workday or fixed weekday schedule due to the line of work.
“It’s going to be very difficult to make an agreement around those differences,” Morris said.
The approved positions include the city clerk and clerical office employees, non-directorial librarians, the parks and recreation specialist, maintenance supervisor, information-technology specialist, business development specialist, accreditation grant administrator and assessing technician.
The next step will be a “pre-election conference call” between the city, the Teamsters Local 633 of New Hampshire, and the New Hampshire PELRB to schedule an election date, according to Judge.
This election will be a vote by participating employees from the approved positions on whether to form a unit of the Teamsters Local 633 of New Hampshire. The New Hampshire PELRB will conduct this election by secret ballot. The decision to join will require a simple majority vote.
If approved this would be the fifth group of Claremont employees to form a collective bargaining unit. The Claremont firefighter, police officers, Public Works employees and city support staff each have union representation.