Little progress made in talks between Waynesboro teachers' union, board

March 28, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Negotiating teams for Waynesboro Area School Board and the district’s teachers’ union met at the bargaining table for more than three hours Monday, but both sides said they made little progress.

“We had a (tentative agreement) on qualifications for column movement,” said Richard Galtman, a Philadelphia-area lawyer serving as lead negotiator for the school board.

That agreement was to not add or remove columns for teacher classifications, but rather maintain the columns the way they are, according to Galtman and Jessica Bryan, president of the Waynesboro Area Education Association.

Bryan said the teachers went to the bargaining table suggesting no pay increase for the first year of the new contract, followed by 3.5 percent salary increases for the second and third years.

“We have moved several times on our original proposal. ... They’re still at three zeros,” Bryan said of salary increases.

She said the teachers agreed to a “modest” increase in contributions for health care, but said they cannot establish their contributions as a percentage of salary as proposed by the school board. The WAEA feels that would create “tiers” among teachers.

“We’ll bargain for a percentage of the premium, but not of salary,” Bryan said.

Galtman said the teachers talked about a lack of respect during the session.

“In fact, the district proposal reflects the economic realities of the district. ... The district is not coming from some place of respect, emotions, feelings,” Galtman said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed returning education spending to 2008-09 levels before federal stimulus dollars infused coffers. Coupled with other factors such as increased contributions to the state retirement system, that leaves the district with a deficit estimated to be close to $2 million for 2011-12.

“It’s like the tsunami is hitting, and the teachers are saying they’re entitled to a raise,” Galtman said.

He said Waynesboro is facing “numerous cost-cutting measures, including possible furloughs.”

“There are only two ways to balance a budget, which is to cut programs or raise revenue,” Galtman said.

Galtman said the school board respects teachers and considers them to be very important in the “fabric of the district.” However, he said he feels they have a “reality disconnect” about the local and state economy.

The next bargaining session was scheduled for April 13.

The union’s membership voted at the end of 2010 to authorize its leaders to call a strike. Bryan said any possible strike dates have not been finalized and she’s heard some school board members want a teacher strike to occur to make the educators “look bad” in the community.

“We don’t want to strike, but where do we go from here?” she asked, saying the school board is not bargaining in good faith.

WAEA is seeking additional community support for their efforts, Bryan said.

“This isn’t about greed. You have to give and take, but not three years of zeros,” she said.

According to Bryan, the two sides in Waynesboro have bargained for 105 hours since early 2010. The last contract expired at the end of June 2010.

“We’re becoming a laughingstock in the state for how our school board is,” she said.

Nearby Chambersburg Area School District reached a tentative contract for teachers late last week. Both sides are expected to vote on that two-year contract soon.

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