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Selectmen Uphold Denial of Police Union Grievance

The board first took up the issue in December.

Selectmen voted on Jan. 28 to uphold the denial of a grievance issued by AFSCME Local 3657 on behalf of an officer in the Windham Police Department.

The board voted 3-1 on the matter, with Vice Chairman Ross McLeod supporting the local police union. Chairman Bruce Breton was not in attendance as he continues to recover from an illness.

The decision was a continuation of a hearing that took place on Dec. 13.

At that time, Town Administrator Dave Sullivan was unable to attend.

The grievance, as hashed out extensively during that meeting, is related to an increase in salary denied to Officer Shane Van Hirtum as stated in a contract that he signed with Sullivan.

The town's Collective Bargaining Agreement with the local police union expired after March 2011.

During the December hearing, Officer Shane Mirisola, who serves as a steward for the police union, alleged that Sullivan's contract was misleading.

Sullivan argued that four or five officers have been denied step increases over the last two years and that 17 offer sheet letters used since 2006 have taken very similar forms.

He added that the letters have come in two versions, and both are simply a paraphrase of what the union contract calls for.

"I can unequivocally state that I did not change a letter because this issue came to my attention," Sullivan said.

He added that no grievances came forward when a contract was not in place in 2006. A contract agreed upon in 2008 included retroactive step increases for the previous years when a contract was not in place.

Mirisola said that Van Hirtum was hired at a probationary pay outside of the CBA.

Windham Labor Law Atty. Mark Broth said that the precedent set in 1993 was that when a CBA expires, certain things must remain in place as per a "status quo." This was decided in the New Hampshire Supreme Court case involving the Milton School District.

Broth said that anything beyond that status quo, such as step raises, would require new funding by the public.

Selectman Kathleen DiFrusica said that while it's unfortunate that a contract isn't in place, she believes that the intent of the contract with Van Hirtum, past practice with regards to expired CBA's and what the town has look at for status quo all play into her decision to uphold the grievance denial.

McLeod backed the union for several reasons, saying that every single cost item in the expired CBA have still been paid out to officers except for step increases.

He distanced the Milton case law from the Van Hirtum discussion because the Milton decision involved  an automatic renewal or "evergreen" clause, which he said is not pertinent to Windham.

Van Hirtum was hired by the town in October 2011, months after the last CBA expired.

He is due a step increase in pay from 20.7299 per hour to 21.9368 per hour based on the expired CBA details.

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