Forbes Teachers, Board Disagree On Contract
After voting twice to reject the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board fact-finder’s recommendations, the Forbes Road School Board will now have to return to the bargaining table with the Forbes Road Education Association. The teachers’ union had accepted the fact-finder’s report, however, school board members rejected the report that generally favored some of the recommendations that had been made by the Education Association and suggested compromise on others.
Fifteen issues were presented to attorney Robert C. Gifford, who was engaged by the Labor Relations Board as the fact-finder. The issues included: term of agreement, personal days, healthcare, salary/salary schedules, dental plan, vision plan, payment for healthcare and opt-out, reimbursement of tuition and costs, reimbursement to district for payment of tuition, compensation for attaining additional credits/ degrees, service increment, health insurance on retirement, dental and vision for retirees, sick leave bank/sick day donation and inclusion of supplemental/ extracurricular salaries in contract.
The teachers’ association sought a three-year contract while the district proposed two years. The fact-finder suggested the three-year contract since the first year is nearing conclusion. The three-year contract suggested would run from July 1, 2009-June 30, 2012.
The district proposes to reduce the number of personal days per year from three to two, to eliminate the ability to accumulate personal days, to compensate unused personal days at the end of the year at $45 per day (down from current rate of $65 per day), and to prohibit the use of personal days prior to or during the first week of school, after or during the last week of school, on in-service days, the day before or after a holiday break, and during the state testing weeks.
The Education Association opposes the district’s proposal, and the fact-finder recommended keeping the three days of personal leave, reducing the accumulation of the leave from eight to six days with time given to spend the accumulated days down to six days. The fact-finder also recommended that unused personal days be compensated at the old rate of $65 per day.
The district seeks to raise the employee contribution for healthcare from 5 percent to 15 percent, which is opposed by the association. The fact-finder’s report recommends that the contribution remain at 5 percent with increases to certain co-pays.
The district currently pays $900 to employees who opt out of the district’s healthcare plan, but the Education Association wants to increase that to $1,500 for family coverage, with single coverage remaining at $900. The report recommends the opt-out be increased to $1,250 regardless of the type of plan.
The district seeks to eliminate dental coverage entirely, while the association seeks the status quo. The fact-finder recommends that the district continue to provide the current dental plan, but at the employees’ expense.
Currently health insurance premiums are paid for school retirees with 30 years of service and at least 20 years in the Forbes Road District. The district seeks to eliminate retiree health benefits entirely, while the association has asked to maintain the status quo. The fact-finder recommends a modified employer contributions to a 403B account for those retirees.
According to the report, Forbes Road is one of only 10 districts in the state without a salary schedule. The association has asked for one that ranges from 23 steps in 2009-10 to 21 steps in 2011-12 with an average annual salary increase of $2,750 or 6.4 percent. Their original proposal had been for an 8 percent increase. The district proposes to freeze salaries for the duration of the contract. The fact-finder proposes a salary schedule that grants an annual average increase of $1,600 per employee or about 3.8 percent.
The fact-finder’s report was unanimously rejected by board members at a special meeting on May 24, while the Education Association accepted it. School board members Teressa Bard, Carl Detwiler and Karen Peffer serve on the negotiations team for the board and now that the report has been made public, the board again rejected it unanimously at Monday night’s meeting, which was attended by several teachers, including their union representative.
At Monday night’s meeting, board members made a motion and a second to approve the fact-finder’s report, but the motion failed unanimously on a 0-9 rollcall vote.