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Negotiations resume over new teacher contracts in Chambersburg

December 20, 2010|By C.J. LOVELACE | Staff Correspondent

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Teachers in the Chambersburg Area School District are inching closer to a possible districtwide strike, according Dave Snyder, president of the Chambersburg Area Education Association.

"We're running out of bullets," Snyder said of the union's lack of progress with the Chambersburg Area School Board in reaching a new collective-bargaining agreement.

"You go through what you have to do, and they're pushing us until we have nothing else to do," he said. "We don't want to strike. Nobody wants to strike."

By a unanimous vote, the school board Monday afternoon again rejected the state's third-party fact-finding report on the two sides' latest proposal.

With the rejection, talks now return to the negotiating table today at 10:30 a.m., Snyder said.

Sylvia Rockwood, a district spokeswoman, said the board's decision Monday "centered on the fact that even if the board increased taxes to the maximum Act 1 index of 1.7 percent, the revenue generated would not cover the cost of the first year of the contract."

"Although the association voted to authorize a strike, the district remains committed to negotiating for a fair and affordable contract for our teachers," Rockwood said in an e-mail Monday.

On Friday, the CAEA, which approved the fact-finding reports by an "overwhelming majority," authorized association leadership to strike if a settlement cannot be reached by both parties.

On Thursday, the board postponed the 9-0 vote to again reject the fact-finding report, citing a need for a list of cuts that would need to be made if it were to accept the report.

Terms on salary and benefits remain the major sticking points for the board.

As the two sides resume negotiations today, Snyder said he refuses to accept that there needs to be major changes to the terms of the last agreement after two neutral third parties found it acceptable.

"I believe the board is using this bad economy angle, but to me, if you look at the facts and what the fact-finder did — it's not about the economy, it's not about money, so what else is it about?" Snyder said. "It must be about the board trying to break the union."

Snyder would not comment further on the possibility of a strike, saying he would have a better idea of the union's next move after today's meeting.

"I'm hoping when we bargain (today), they will finish fooling around with this political stuff that they're doing and get down to the facts and get it settled," Snyder said.

School Board President Norm Blowers could not be reached for comment Monday night.

The teachers have been working without a contract since June 30.

More than 500 people comprise the teachers' bargaining unit, officials have said.

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Findings
The following information is from the fact-finder’s report on the Chambersburg Area Education Association’s negotiations with the Chambersburg Area School Board:

  • The report also noted that the district’s total bargaining unit salary and benefits have actually decreased over the term of the now-expired contract by 1 percent, 53.3 percent to 52.3 percent.
  • Had the report been accepted, the average teacher’s salary in the district for 2010-11 would have been $56,795, while the starting salary with a bachelor’s degree would have been $44,359. Thirteen steps of advancement are included in the pay scale.
  • The district wants 12-, 13- and 14-percent employee contributions to insurance premiums in the first three years, the report said, but the fact-finder recommended a compromise of 8-, 9- and 9-percent increases, starting in 2010-11.
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