DISTRICT WORKING TO REOPEN SCHOOLS
BARGAINING TEAMS MAKE SOME PROGRESS
Bargaining teams will meet again on Thursday, May 10, in an effort to end a strike by employees of Jackson County School District 9. A state mediator will assist in the meeting, which will be held at the district office starting at 11 a.m.
Meanwhile, the district is continuing preparations to reopen with current staff and guest employees. The district provided inservice training on Tuesday for a significant number of current employees who have decided to continue working during the strike. The district will provide training for guest employees on Thursday.
If the strike continues, schools will reopen on Monday, May 14. Details are available on the district website, www.eaglepnt.k12.or.us.
District’s Financial Proposal Favored — $4.3 Million More For Salaries & Benefits
Before the bargaining teams adjourned at 5:30 Tuesday afternoon, they had met for more than 24 hours in an effort to complete a new contract for unionized teachers and support employees. By the end, both sides favored the district’s financial proposal, which would increase employee compensation by $4.3 million over three years.
Employees would receive a 0.5 percent cost of living raise in December 2012 and 2013, and the district’s payments for health insurance would increase to $11,976 a year for employees working 7 or more hours a day. In addition, eligible employees would continue to receive step raises 3.4 to 4.5 percent a year. And the district would continue to pay employee costs of the PERS pension system.
Compromise On Subcontracting Also Favored
The teams also favored a compromise on subcontracting work currently done by district employees. Under the compromise, the district would be prohibited from subcontracting through December 2013. A committee would form in October of that year to study the issue. Also, the district would be able to start an expedited bargaining process over the issue in January 2014.
Expedited bargaining could allow the district to implement a proposal on subcontracting without union approval. However, we have said repeatedly that we would not subcontract any work that was being done more cost-effectively by our own employees.
District Wants To Add Enough Instructional Time To Meet State Requirements
The two areas where the teams could not find common ground were instructional minutes and linking insurance benefits to hours worked. The district team dropped an earlier proposal to add about a half-hour of instructional time for middle and high school teachers. Instead the teams discussed a memorandum of understanding that would allow school staffs to propose new ways to adjust instructional time. Once a school staff agreed on a proposal, a union-district committee would evaluate it and could approve it.
If that group couldn’t agree, the district still could require the school to increase instructional time. However, the increase could be no more than was required to meet state minimum requirements.
The district’s proposal would give schools the flexibility to develop schedules that would reduce class sizes significantly, as has already been done at White Mountain Middle School. Our team does not want to have this kind of improvement derailed by a union veto.
Both Teams Favor Some Form Of Proration For Insurance
In the insurance area, both teams favor the idea of proration — linking the level of district insurance support to the hours an employee works. All employees working 7 or more hours would receive 100 percent of the district’s insurance subsidy. Those working 4 to 6.9 hours a day would receive lower percentages, depending on the number of hours worked.
The teams could not agree on the appropriate percentage levels. Nor could they agree on what should happen if an employee’s working hours declined. The union proposed that an employee’s subsidy level would not decline during the life of the contract. The district proposed that the level would not decline during any single insurance year. The district believes this will provide adequate stability for employees.
Our bargaining team will keep working for a contract that protects a full school year of instruction, keeps class sizes from growing and keeps teachers working. We want to do this in a way that fits within our budget and protects the taxpayers’ investment in education. We will return our schools to normal operation as soon as these goals are achieved.