Mediator appears to side with teachers union in contract impasse

skinney@keynoter.comApril 12, 2014 

Although the United Teachers of Monroe garnered support Monday from a mediator presiding over a contract impasse with the Monroe County School District, final say on provisions of a one-year deal is with elected School Board.

After a year of bargaining, mediation started March 5 with a hearing in front of Scott Milinski from the National Mediation Board. The contract in question covers the 2013-14 school year, which is over in June.

There are two major issues at stake:

-- "Management rights" language that would allow the board to impose unpaid employee furlough days, which it did in 2011 and 2012 to save $1.7 million each year and avoid layoffs.

-- How to distribute $1.25 million in raises for teachers and school-related personnel like bus drivers.

Milinski recommends getting rid of the furlough language.

"The fundamental problem on the management rights issue is trust between the parties," Milinski wrote in his recommendation. "Anyone would be hesitant to sign off on a proposal with the drafter of the language claiming that the rights of the parties are not changed. Why is the new language necessary if it changes nothing?"

"We have been asking all along," UTM President Holly Hummell-Gorman said. "Why is the district's management rights language necessary if it changes nothing?"

School Board member John Dick argues the language is necessary to avoid layoffs and pointed out that the contract period covers, at most, two months more of school for teachers.

"Are we going to impose furlough days in the last week of school?" he asked.

On the raises front, the district has proposed across-the-board $1,250 teacher raises and 2 percent raises for school-related personnel. Milinski recommends a $1,850 raise and agreed with the 2 percent.

Dick reiterated that regardless of the magistrate's recommendations, a final decision is left up to the School Board.

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