Waynesboro teacher negotiations go nowhere again

December 12, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — With another unproductive teachers contract negotiation session under its belt, the Waynesboro Area School Board has made a decision about future bargaining, its attorney said Monday night.

The school board's negotiators are not going to continue meeting with the teachers' union, Waynesboro Area Education Association, if neither side is going to budge on its current proposal.

"We're not going to sit and meet for no apparent reason. We're willing to meet if there's something to talk about and something to bargain over," said Richard Galtman, an attorney serving as lead negotiator for the school board.

The two sides met at the bargaining table briefly Monday.

Mike Engle, lead negotiator for the Waynesboro Area Education Association, said the union has been awaiting a counter-offer or new proposal from the school board after the teachers made their latest proposal Oct. 31.

Galtman said the school board is "not interested" in changing its proposal, which is no pay increase for the first year of the new contract and a $600 increase for everyone in both the second and third years.

The school board wants to tie any pay increase to savings from changes to teachers' health insurance plans and their contributions, Galtman said.

Waynesboro Area School Board and Waynesboro Area Education Association have been negotiating a new contract since early 2010. The teachers' last contract expired at the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year.

"We're asking the public to contact the school board because they're not working to improve the quality of education in the school district. Controversy in the school system ... is bad for the whole community," Engle said.

He would not comment on the possibility of a teacher strike.

On Monday evening, the union shared information about other contract settlements and salaries in the region. The school board asked for more information about those districts' health insurance plans.

Only two regional school districts that started bargaining in 2010 have not yet settled, Engle said. They are Waynesboro and Southern Fulton school districts, he said.

"WAEA's proposal is not unreasonable and is already lower than many settled contracts from districts that are bargaining in the same economic realities," Engle said in an emailed statement.

The school board's negotiators told the teachers they will not offer retroactivity on any items in the contract, Galtman said. That is because savings from health insurance changes won't be felt until late in a new contract now, he said.

"We're losing the benefit of any changes from now on. Our feeling is there is no benefit to the district that is retroactive, so there should be no benefit to anyone that is retroactive," he said.

"The longer we go without a contract, the less likely the best candidates will want to apply for a job. People will not want to work for an employer that does not value them," Engle wrote in his statement.

Galtman rejected any suggestion the teachers are disrespected by the school board.

"We value our teachers. We value the jobs they do, but we believe we have a job to be fiscally responsible," Galtman said.

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