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BOE to call for impasse in talks

March 06, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - The Washington County Board of Education's chief negotiator said Monday that a recommendation will be made today that the board declare an impasse in its contract negotiations for the county's teachers.

The teachers association's chief negotiator said he and the teachers were "shocked" by that decision.

"Based on what you presented and based on what we can negotiate, we still remain very far apart, and at this point I think the board has made some very fair offers," Tim Thornburg, employee and labor relations coordinator for the board and its chief negotiator, said to teachers union representatives. "At this point, we believe we may be at a point where we just can't move anymore."

According to the Annotated Code of Maryland, if the state superintendent determines an impasse has been reached, additional state officials might become involved or a mediator can be hired at a cost that would be shared by the board and the association.

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"The teachers were shocked to hear about impasse because we feel the talks were moving forward," said T. Scott Miller, Maryland State Teachers Association UniServ Director and chief negotiator.

Negotiations for the 2007-08 school year contract have been under way since December.

More than 50 teachers attended Monday's meeting at the invitation of the teachers association. Miller said that they, along with the association's bargaining team, were surprised by the decision of the board's team to recommend declaring an impasse.

"We understand there's not more room to move, but we still have unanswered questions," he said. "That's a reason to continue negotiations."

Thornburg has said that the proposal given to the association is as much as the board can offer.

"There's only so much money in the pot," he said. "The package (the board) has put out there is the best package we can offer."

The final package offered Monday included an offer of a vision-care plan for the 2008-09 school year, an item the teachers association said it wanted included in the contract.

The board remained unchanged on other issues, including salary (7 percent plus a step increase) and extra-duty pay (keeping the current contract language). Language on voluntary transfers and tuition reimbursement also stayed the same as the offer from the Feb. 5 bargaining session.

Miller said the decision to possibly declare an impasse in negotiations was shocking because he felt talks were moving forward after the board offered a vision-care plan, and the association gave up ground on extra-duty pay and tuition reimbursement.

The association had sought additional pay per hour for work outside of the contractual day, but toward the end of Monday's meeting Miller said they proposed keeping the current contract language on that issue to "meet the board in the middle."

Thornburg said he was disappointed that the sides were deadlocked.

"We remain far apart on several crucial issues," he said. "Unfortunately, the impasse procedure may be the best avenue to reach an outcome that both parties can live with."

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