State To NH Troopers: Wash Your Own Shirts

CONCORD – New Hampshire state troopers are grieving an order that says the state will not pay to dry clean their shirts and blouses, regardless of whether they were donned on duty, if the shirts can be “laundered.”

Members of the New Hampshire Troopers Association, which includes state police officers up to the rank of sergeant, filed a complaint with the New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board that alleges a new ban on dry cleaning their dress shirts and blouses is an unfair labor practice. In an April 27 complaint, the troopers say the shirts being debated are worn on duty and by refusing to dry clean them, the state is breaching its contract.

According to their complaint, the troopers received an order Feb. 9 saying the Department of Safety would “no longer pay” to dry clean the on-duty shirts.

“This directive was in direct contravention of the clear and unambiguous language of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement as well as the parties’ past practice,” according to the grievance.

The troopers’ complaint includes language from their contract which says the state “shall pay cleaning expenses for uniforms and civilian clothing worn on duty … .” Their complaint does not include the end of that sentence which says “in accordance with Division policy.”

State police policies say the uniform for detectives and other plain clothes assignments for men is a business suit, or sports coat with pants, with a dress shirt and tie. The policies say that female officers, under the same circumstances, shall wear a suit, or a skirt with a blouse, sweater or jacket.

The troopers complain that they first grieved the dry cleaning order internally, according to procedure, then proceeded to the PELRB. Their complaint asks the PELRB to find that the state committed an unfair labor practice and order the state to “cease and desist from any further violations and make any adversely affected employees whole.”

The troopers’ union is represented by attorney John Krupski, who did not return Seacoast Sunday’s message seeking comment about his clients’ grievance.

According to the current state police contract, state police detectives are paid a $500 annual clothing allowance and the state pays for dry cleaning of troopers’ uniforms and some civilian clothing worn on duty.

The state is represented by attorney Marta Modigliani, who also did not return Seacoast Sunday’s request for comment. But according to a pre-hearing memo by PELRB hearing officer Karina Lange, the dry-cleaning prohibition for dress shirts is “consistent with the Division of State Police policy and practice.”

That practice, according to the PELRB memo, is that “shirts and other clothing that can be laundered is not, and never has been intended to be covered by the state’s contracted cleaners.” The state also claims the troopers’ union “did not provide a clear and concise statement of facts giving rise to the complaint” and asks the PELRB to dismiss the troopers’ complaint.

Both sides have until Monday to file statements of facts and witness lists. A hearing is scheduled for June 24 in Concord and five hours has been allotted to dispute the controversy.

In Portsmouth, Fire Chief Steve Achilles and Police Chief Steve DuBois both reported that their departments do not pay dry cleaning bills. Portsmouth’s Finance Director Judie Belanger said no laundering or dry cleaning bills are paid by the city, with the exception of public works uniforms that become contaminated with sewage or soiled with grease.

Portsmouth does provide uniforms and pays annual uniform allowance stipends, which employees could use for dry cleaning, Belanger said.

According to the Portsmouth firefighters’ contract, they receive annual clothing allowances of $600. The patrolmen’s union contract states that in 2012 every member of the Police Department received an annual clothing allowance of $717.80 and the stipend increases every year, according to cost of living adjustments. If officers are transferred from patrol to detectives, or vice versa, they receive an additional $100 in the clothing allowance, according to the contract.

Dover City Manager Mike Joyal Jr. said the city of Dover provides “a standard work uniform through a service that provides, maintains and cleans them for the maintenance staff in our Community Services Department (public works).”

“In addition, we do provide and pay for dry cleaning of staff officers’ dress uniforms in the Fire Department,” Joyal said. “For all other police and fire employees, we provide a cleaning and maintenance allowance as specified in their respective labor contracts that ranges from $87.50 to $600 per year (the amount depends on the position and the uniforms required to be worn).”

From Seacoast Sunday