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Forum: More on Co-op Employment Polices; Norwich Library Looks Ahead

Co-op Acted in Accord With Policies

To the Editor:

The Hanover Co-op Board of Directors would like to correct some of the disappointing misinformation recently published in the Valley News and local listservs about our Co-op and our employees.

We have taken time to deliberate carefully as a group before responding to members’ concerns; we take very seriously our responsibility to govern in adherence with our policies and co-operative values. The Hanover Co-op is the second-largest and second-oldest food cooperative in the U.S. It is entirely locally owned, with over $74 million in sales annually, over 20,000 active members and over 400 employees, 80 percent of whom are full-time workers.

The board holds management accountable for employee satisfaction, safety, pay and benefits, and training and advancement opportunities, as well as to ensure that all employees are treated fairly, respectfully, honestly and transparently. There have been no recent changes in policy to affect this in any way.

The Co-op board and management have never and will never interfere with our employees’ right to free association. Co-op employees are entitled to form or join a union if they so choose. All statements to the contrary are untrue.

Decisions about the termination of employees are painful and challenging for all parties.

Professionalism and respect mandate that personnel matters are confidential and not matters for public discussion. Regarding the recent terminations of two knowledgeable employees, we will not discuss individual employment matters in any public forum. The board has explored the matter in depth and finds that the management acted within the authority given by our board policies to make the decision it did.

We appreciate the thoughtful comments of those members who have objected in principle to one element of this situation, the termination of employees without accompanying specific reasons at the moment of discharge. This is the “employment at will” issue. We share the concern that those decisions can in some circumstances fall short of the level of procedural fairness and transparency that our Co-op values. We govern by policy, and do so thoughtfully and deliberately. While management acted in accord with Co-op policies as written, the board plans to address this issue and make sure that our employment policies do not simply follow New Hampshire labor law, but also reflect the spirit of our cooperative.

Margaret Drye

Board President

On behalf of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society Board of Directors

Hanover

A New Vision for Norwich Library

To the Editor:

If you live in Norwich, the 2014 Strategic Planning Committee of the Norwich Public Library wants your help. The phrase “NPL: Expanding the Vision” captures our goal, and we need your input.

Many of you are already reading articles or engaging in discussions about ways that traditional libraries, nationwide and worldwide, are changing.

No longer just places to find books and do research, tomorrow’s libraries will be asked to serve new purposes, to be flexible in meeting a community’s needs, across age spans and economic diversity. Libraries are providing “maker spaces” to encourage creativity, as well as multi-purpose areas that can work for kids in the morning and senior citizens in the evening. Wheeled shelving is taking the place of static stacks.

Your responses to our initial community survey during the spring helped us design the next round of questions we’ll be asking this month. What will you do? Watch three short videos showing innovative libraries in action and let us know your reactions. Here’s how it will work: On three Tuesdays in July, the 15th, 22nd and 29th, we’ll post a link to one of the videos on the local listserv, under the heading “NPL: Expanding the Vision.” You can watch it, hit a “hot button” connecting you to NPL, and tell us what you think via email. Or, you can come into the cool comfort of the library, watch the “video of the week,” and share your ideas on the sheet of paper provided.

So, be part of NPL’s future. Let us hear from you during the month of July. Flexibility is our new watchword!

Lucinda Walker

Director, Norwich Public Library

Mary Otto

Chair, 2014 NPL Strategic Planning Committee

Co-op Policies Should Be Reviewed

To the Editor:

We are long-time members of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society. We are concerned about the recent firing of Dan King and John Boutin. If the firings occurred as Dan and others have reported, then the action by management was shameful and is not consistent with the way we want our Co-op to be run or our Co-op employees to be treated.

If, as Dan has reported, Co-op managers refused to give Dan and John a reason why they were being fired other than management’s prerogative to fire employees at-will, then all Co-op members should protest and demand that Dan and John be reinstated with back pay.

The Co-op board should investigate the reason for the firings, the reason for the timing of the firings and the means by which the firings were accomplished. The account provided by Dan and others that Dan and John were escorted off the Co-op premises immediately after they were fired, in full view of other Co-op employees, is an effort to intimidate and is antithetical to the Co-op’s values and to our values as members of the Co-op.

Respect and fair treatment of employees is a core value that must be honored by Co-op management. An employee terminated for just cause is entitled to be treated with respect. No employee should be terminated without just cause or without being told the reason for the termination.

We join many others in calling on the Co-op board to investigate these firings and to review Co-op policies regarding employee discipline and management practices. In addition to the board investigation, we recommend the formation of a committee of board members, non-board members and employees to review Co-op policies, hold meetings with the members and make recommendations with respect to changes in Co-op employment policies. The Co-op disciplinary policy should be revised to require just cause before an employee can be terminated once an employee has completed an initial probationary period.

Scott and Cathy McGee

Norwich