Contract talks at SCA move forward
CATAWISSA RR - The negotiating teams of Southern Columbia Area's school board and teachers union will meet today to continue ongoing discussions toward a new contract.
Vice president Charlie Porter, who also chairs the negotiations and personnel committee, said it's the board's turn to provide a proposal back to Southern Columbia Area Education Association.
Whether they will respond at the meeting or review over the next few weeks is not known, Porter said.
"I have hopes, but not any expectations," Porter said.
District teachers have been working under a three-year contract that expired June 30.
Union President Chris Gengler could not be reached for comment.
Porter said negotiations have been conducted thus far without any negativity.
"Sure, we had hoped we had it settled by now, and the board has invested a lot of time into health care options," he said. "Frustration and anger doesn't solve negotiating."
The last negotiating session was Feb. 20 in which the union responded to the district's last proposal.
Wage increases and health are the "major" issues standing in the way of a settlement, Porter said.
In November, the school board members blamed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for an anticipated 12 to 15 percent increase to health insurance costs for teachers.
If the teachers union doesn't accept the proposal, the district is severely limited at the negotiation table, Porter said in November.
Locally, it took 17 months for Mount Carmel Area teachers and the school board to finalize a deal. They signed their new three-year deal in November.
However, Shamokin Area and Line Mountain school district teachers are also still without renewed contracts.
At Line Mountain, where the union is threatening to strike over working on an expired contract since June 2012, the teachers picketed the March 11 board meeting and have been working to the rule since Sept. 30.
Shamokin Area's most recent contract expired June 30 after a two-year extension to a five-year contract, but there has been no indication yet that teachers will take any extraordinary actions.
In the neighboring county of Montour where some Northumberland County students are educated, the Danville Education Association announced Thursday that teachers will strike beginning April 17.
Teachers in the Danville Area School District have been working without a contract since the end of the 2011-12. Shamokin Area was the last area school district to go on strike, leaving students out of school from Oct. 15 to Dec. 2, 1986.