Line Mountain teachers enact 'working to rule' as contract negotiations drag on
MANDATA - The Line Mountain Education Association (LMEA) announced Monday it is establishing a "working to the rule" practice to demonstrate its frustration with the status of contract negotiations with the school board.
In a news release Monday, LMEA President Mark Shearer said 110 teachers in the union will only perform their duties as outlined by the collective bargaining agreement, but will not do any work voluntarily beyond the terms and conditions of the contract.
"We hope the board will realize the value of our work and truly understand that our teachers voluntarily go above and beyond the requirements of our contract every day," he said. "Our teachers are dedicated professionals who have continued to provide high quality educational programs to the students during this entire contract bargaining process, but working two years without a contract is way too long."
Teachers have been working on an expired contract since June 2012, which was a one-year extension of a five-year contract that ended June 30, 2011, that guaranteed educators a 3 percent raise each year.
The purpose of the move, Shearer said, is to demonstrate to the school board the great amount of work teachers do voluntarily - both before and after the work day - for which he said they do not receive compensation nor expect any.
School board President Troy Laudenslager contacted Monday, said he was surprised by the move, calling it an "unfortunate tactic" by the local teachers union and the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA).
Union representatives are the ones stalling the negotiations, he charged.
"They're dragging this out as much as they can," he said. "I don't understand their game. They don't want to talk; they don't want to discuss."
Based on the teacher contract, Laudenslager said "working to the rule" means teachers are only willing to work the minimum required 7 1/2 hours per day, 186 days per year, with three personal days and 10 sick days.
Elementary staff have 6 1/2 hours instructional time, and middle/high school staff have 7 hours instructional time, he said.
Under "working to the rule," they can still be required to attend three evening meetings per year, such as orientation, graduation and parent-teacher conferences, without additional pay, he said.
Under normal circumstances where teachers work additional time, as required by the district, they are paid $22 per hour, Laudenslager said.
Timing of the announcement and the union's opinion of the negotiation process is questionable, he said. The last contract negotiation meeting took place on Aug. 21 when the board presented what he called a generous offer, and the union has not yet even responded to it.
"We have been waiting six weeks for them to respond to our first salary matrix proposal. We were expecting to hear their response to our proposal later this week, but got this first," he said.
The next contract negotiation meeting is scheduled for Thursday - a date the union chose, he said.
If it were up to him, Laudenslager said he would make the details of the contract negotiations public.
"People would see how reasonable our offer is," he said.
He noted a first year teacher makes a minimum of $32,838, and a teacher in his or her 17th year can make $63,582, plus receive a pension.
The board is waiting for Thursday for a response from the union before deciding its next step, he said.
A mediator has been involved in the process, but it has not yet come down to bringing in a Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board fact finder, Laudenslager said.
Shearer could not be reached Monday for further comment or clarifications on what work teachers will or won't do outside the school day.