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Chambersburg teachers, school board head back to bargaining table Wednesday

February 22, 2011|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — After approximately 200 teachers turned out for last week's Chambersburg Area School Board meeting, much of the same can be expected Wednesday, according to Dave Snyder, president of the Chambersburg Area Education Association.

The board and the teachers union are scheduled to meet again Wednesday in an attempt to move toward a new collective-bargaining agreement for teachers. The meeting is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. inside the district's administration building.

However, a large crowd of teachers armed with signs protesting the lack of progress in contract talks — much like last Wednesday's exhibition — is expected to fill the entranceway by about 4 p.m., Snyder said Tuesday.

"We just want to continue to send the message to the board that we are united and we all are asking for the same thing," he said. "We need to get this thing settled."

Chambersburg teachers have been working without a contract since June 30, 2010, and contract talks with the district have been unsuccessful for more than a year now. The two sides last met more than a month ago.

In December, after yet another round of failed bargaining sessions, the CAEA membership voted to authorize union leadership the ability to strike, but it has yet to act on it. Striking is the union's last resort, Snyder has said.

Snyder addressed the school board during last Wednesday's meeting and is hopeful that board members understand the union's desire to settle.

"I think we'll probably find out (tonight)," Snyder said, when asked if he felt his speech struck a chord with the board. "I'm hoping that that sent a message to them that we're serious about getting this thing settled, and we need them to be just as serious about it."

Salary increases and the cost of health care benefits continue to be the major sticking points for the board, which has twice voted down third-party fact-finding reports for previous proposals that the union approved.

"The district is committed to continued negotiations and the resolution of the contract as soon as possible," Sylvia Rockwood, a district spokesperson, said in an e-mail Tuesday.

If the two sides continue to fail in reaching a compromise, the union may authorize a strike, according to Pennsylvania's Act 88 guidelines. In the event of a strike, the union must give the district 48 hours' notice prior to picketing.

When the teachers return to work, both sides would be forced into nonbinding arbitration, which requires a mediator to prepare the outline of a deal that could still be turned down by either side.

The union is composed of more than 500 teachers.

About 15 minutes down the road, teacher contract negotiations in neighboring Waynesboro Area School District also are at a stalemate.

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