As expected, labor negotiations between the United Teachers of Monroe and the Monroe County School Board formally hit the wall on Thursday with union President Holly Hummell-Gorman declaring an official impasse.
That's what happens when two sides can't agree on contract issues. In this case, it's language that allows the School Board to invoke unpaid furlough days on teachers and support staff if district finances tailspin and the money is needed to keep the budget above water.
The first step is joint mediation with the Federal Bureau of Mediation and Conciliation Services. If either side doesn't like the service's decision after that, either one can contest the outcome to the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, although any decisions end up back in front of the School Board, which has final say.
This isn't the first time the two sides have gone to Mediation and Conciliation Services. Mediator Gilbert Escudero moderating a bargaining session in October. Following that, both sides thought they had a deal but it fell through.
"No matter what the decision is," board member John Dick said, "it comes back to the board. The board can say yes or no and that's final."
Using unpaid furloughs, the district cut more than $13 million in spending between 2010 and 2012, with savings of $1.7 million per year derived from the mandatory seven-day furloughs.
"We cannot agree to the inclusion of [language allowing that again] in our contract," union President Holly Hummell-Gorman said. "As was proven by the blatant disregard of the last binding contract with the Monroe County School Board, as long as this language is included, nothing that is agreed upon would be required to be honored by this board."
This round of bargaining is for a one-year contract retroactive to June that covers the district's 525 teachers and 114 school-related personnel like bus drivers and food-service workers.
Superintendent Mark Porter led 25 negotiating sessions with UTM before turning the most recent two meetings over to labor attorney Bob Norton. Porter said UTM displayed an "unwillingness to truly seek compromise during the past couple of months."
"At this point we are better off entering the impasse process sooner rather than later to assure that we can complete this final stage as quickly as possible and access the revenue available to us and pass it on to our employees," he said.
Lack of a contract deal means the district can't disburse $1.2 million in money allocated by the state Legislature for teacher raises.