Line Mountain contract session ends abruptly; strike 'absolutely' looming
A bargaining session between the Line Mountain School Board and the district's teachers union ended abruptly Monday night, and the union's chief negotiator says a strike appears inevitable.
Discussion of a salary schedule included in the board's latest proposal presented Monday brought the three-hour meeting to a sudden halt.
Ben Pratt, the district's negotiating attorney, said the proposal guaranteed more money over the life of the proposed contract. Mark McDade, representing the Line Mountain Education Association, scoffed at the notion, calling it a regression from the board's previous proposal.
"Yes, absolutely," McDade said when asked if a union strike was looming. "This probably should have been done two years ago."
But a date has not been set, and a negotiating session is scheduled for Aug. 18. Should a strike be authorized, the state Department of Education will determine how long it can last based on
the district calendar. By law, public schools are required to have 180 days of school within a school year, which ends annually each June 30.
"(The teachers) don't like the idea of a strike. After all, it's been four years and we haven't commenced a work stoppage," McDade said. "We hope it can still be averted. That's squarely on the shoulders of the (school) board."
Pratt said 3 percent increases had previously been on the table. The board adjusted its salary schedule for Monday's session, offering an average of 2.3 percent over the life of a contract plus an additional $500 for each salary step.
McDade said the proposal stretched out over seven years, with raises decreasing annually: 3.34 percent, 3.18, 2.85, 2.67, 2.53, 2.41, 2.28. That averages to 2.75 percent. But McDade said it was unacceptable. He wouldn't discuss the union's proposal, saying he only addressed the board's since the board's negotiator initially provided specifics.
Pratt said the union failed to provide as requested any specifics of its proposed salary schedule. Without it, he said the school board can't discern the potential financial impact. When specifics were sought for discussion, he said McDade abruptly left and ended the meeting.
"The board of directors is disappointed in the way that the (union) is going about these negotiations. They keep failing to provide information to us that we request to help us understand their proposal," Pratt said.
"There's more money on the table. ... To classify it as regressive is misleading to anybody who hears that," Pratt said.
Without naming names, McDade said certain school board members have abused their political clout and have remained greedy during negotiations. He said the board is failing its union and its students by not focusing on retaining and attracting qualified professionals.
"Five-hundred dollars over the course of a year - that's very little. That's insulting," McDade said.
According to McDade, teachers received an annual 3-percent raise in its last pact with the school board that ended in June 2011. The contract was extended for the 2011-12 school year with salaries frozen and tuition reimbursement denied, with some exceptions.
The union continues "working to the rule," meaning teachers work during the contracted 7 1/2 hours and nothing more.
The next negotiating session is scheduled for Aug. 18.
Sept. 2 marks the first day of school for the 2014-15 school year, just 34 days away.