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Judicial Branch, State of New Hampshire

Laura Kiernan
Communications Director
603-271-2646 ext 2359

This news advisory was released at about 8:00p.m. on January 28, 2010.




CONCORD, JANUARY 28--Representatives of the Judicial Branch and the State Employees' Association reached a tentative contract agreement tonight that allows for a system-wide furlough plan and avoids any employee layoffs. The tentative agreement is subject to approval  by members of two collective bargaining units composed of 363 court assistants and court monitors.

"Our goal has always been to implement a furlough plan. That is the fairest course. It is also in the public interest to keep our dedicated staff in their jobs. This tentative agreement is a very important step in that direction," Chief Justice John T. Broderick Jr. said. "I appreciate everyone's hard work and I want to thank the employees throughout the system and my judicial colleagues for their willingness to deal with the unprecedented economic realities we are all facing," Broderick said.

The Judicial Branch took the action toward the furlough plan in order to meet a request from Gov. John Lynch to reduce spending by $3.1 million over the biennium which ends June 30, 2011.

Union representatives agreed that avoiding layoffs was their objective during more than a dozen negotiating sessions. "We are satisfied the parties were able to reach a fair agreement in which both sides were willing to compromise," the SEA's chief negotiator Jake Krupski said last night after the agreement was reached.

Prior to the start of negotiations in November, a survey found that 90 percent of the union members supported furloughs over layoffs, the SEA's director of organizing, Brad Asbury said last night. "From day one we wanted to avoid layoffs and minimize the amount of furlough days," Asbury said. The next step is for worksite meetings to take place with court assistants and monitors to explain the details of the proposed contract. Ballots will then be mailed to union members, and a final contact vote would be expected to be completed in mid-March.

Howard J. Zibel, general counsel for the court system and the chief negotiator for the Judicial Branch said that the proposed contract must be approved by Chief Justice Broderick with the consent of the court system's administrative council. "It is a fair agreement, but no one on either side is happy that courts will have to be closed to reduce spending," Zibel said.

Broderick and the Judicial Branch Administrative Council announced Tuesday implementation of a furlough plan, beginning in late March or early April, for non-judicial employees not subject to a collective bargaining agreement and for court security officers.  Statewide implementation of the furlough plan however hinged on the outcome of negotiations because non-judicial employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement cannot be required to take unpaid furlough days.

On system-wide furlough days, the New Hampshire courts and administrative offices would be closed. For more detail from Tuesday's announcement, including a letter to Gov. Lynch and a memo to Judicial Branch judges, marital masters and staff, visit the Judicial Branch website.

The full Supreme Court, the Administrative Judges, all marital masters and virtually all trial judges and marital masters throughout the court system have voluntarily agreed to take the same number of furlough days as the non-judicial staff.

If the SEA members approve the tentative agreement,  101 fulltime and part-time judges and marital masters and 740 non-judicial employees, including court security officers, would be furloughed over the FY 10-FY 11 biennium.