Board of­fers teach­ers same con­tract as Coun­cil Rock

The Advance of Bucks County - - NEWTOWN AREA - By D.E. Sch­lat­ter

NESHAMINv – School board pres­i­dent oitchie Webb an­nounced at the Sept. 11 board meet­ing that the dis­trict of­fered its teach­ers the same three-year con­tract that the Coun­cil oock teach­ers ac­cepted in June.

“The of­fer is in no means in­sult­ing or de­grad­ing,” Webb read in a pre­pared state­ment at the be­gin­ning of the meet­ing. “If it’s good enough for Coun­cil oock, it’s good enough for Neshaminy.”

Webb said that he hopes the of­fer, which was made last week, will end a five-year im­passe of con­tract talks with the Neshaminy Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (NFT).

“The of­fer is af­ford­able [to the dis­trict] as long as they agree to the con­tract as pre­sented,” he stated.

Webb also im­plored the union lead­ers, “Let the teach­ers have the op­por­tu­nity to vote on it.”

“Fair, it’s more than fair,” he ex­claimed.

Al­though Webb in­di­cated that it is un­likely that the NFT will present the lat­est of­fer to its rank-and- file, he said, “This is the best of­fer you will have from any Neshaminy School Board.”

In June, the Coun­cil oock Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (CoEA), which rep­re­sents the dis­trict’s 853 teach­ers and sup­port staff, ac­cepted a three­year bare-bones con­tract which was later ap­proved by the school board in an 8-1 vote.

Dur­ing the first two years of the agree­ment, Coun­cil oock teach­ers will take a salary freeze. How­ever, those who are not at the top of the pay scale, will re­ceive a typ­i­cal step in­crease in the sec­ond year.

In year three, all teach­ers will re­ceive a half-per­cent pay raise, boost­ing the top teacher salary in the dis­trict from $106,900 to $107,200. The raise would come dur­ing the 13th pay pe­riod of the school year.

As for health care, the CoEA agreed to in­crease their con­tri­bu­tions by five per­cent to the dis­trict’s med­i­cal plan over the three year con­tract, pay­ing 11 per­cent in the first year, 14 per­cent in year two and 16 per­cent in the fi­nal year.

In ad­di­tion, the Coun­cil oock agree­ment in­cludes a Mem­o­ran­dum of rn­der­stand­ing that will re­quire both sides to continue to dis­cuss terms and con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment, in­clud­ing the pay scales, in an ef­fort to look for in­no­va­tive changes that would ben­e­fit both par­ties.

When re­tire­ments are taken into ac­count, the CoEA con­tract will not re­sult in a tax in­crease over the three years, ac­cord­ing to the Coun­cil oock’s busi­ness man­ager Bob oein­hart.

How­ever, en­dur­ing la­bor strife in Neshaminy could torpedo a sim­i­lar deal.

The NFT al­ready walked out twice dur­ing the last school year, and the court man­dated con­tract talks cur­rently tak­ing place are, for the most part, un­pro­duc­tive.

Last month, Com­mon Pleas Judge oobert Baldi in Doylestown or­dered both sides to en­gage in an ac­cel­er­ated bar­gain­ing sched­ule, with three ses­sions in Au­gust and seven slated for Septem­ber. The court also stip­u­lated that the ses­sions not be can­celed for any rea­son. Judge Baldi de­clined the union’s re­quest that the talks be court su­per­vised.

rp un­til now, no sig­nif­i­cant progress has been made and the 633-mem­ber union still has the right to walk the picket lines.

The last walk­out was for six days in June, the sec­ond strike in less than six months.

The union also par­tic­i­pated in an eight-day strike last Jan­uary. But the court had in­di­cated that it would look “un­fa­vor­ably” on any la­bor ac­tion be­fore the man­dated bar­gain­ing ses­sions are com­pleted.

The lat­est im­passe be­tween the NFT and school dis­trict in­volves a state-ap­pointed ar­bi­tra­tor’s non­bind­ing rec­om­men­da­tions re­leased in May and over­whelm­ingly ac­cepted, with rec­om­men­da­tions, by the union’s lead­ers and rank-and-file.

How­ever, the school board unan­i­mously had re­jected most of the find­ings with the main con­tention be­ing back pay. Twelve of the ar­bi­tra­tor’s rec­om­men­da­tions were ac­cepted by the board, and were pre­sented to the union.

Webb re­peat­edly has said that the rec­om­men­da­tion of back pay alone would cost dis­trict more than $9-mil­lion. So far, the school board has de­clined to of­fer any of the missed salary in­creases.

Teach­ers have not had a pay hike since the con­tract ex­pired June 30, 2007, but have re­ceived free med­i­cal in­sur­ance un­der the terms of the old pact.

The ar­bi­tra­tor also rec­om­mended salary in­creases. While there would not be any for 2008, 2009 and 2010, the re­port sug­gested that teach­ers should re­ceive a one-per­cent in­crease retroac­tive to July 2011, 1.5-per­cent in July 2012, two-per­cent in July 2013 and 2.25-per­cent as of July 2014.

How­ever, un­der the ar­bi­tra­tor’s non-bind­ing rec­om­men­da­tions, med­i­cal in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums would no longer be com­pletely paid for by the dis­trict.

Once a ma­jor point of con­tention with the union, the NFT has of­fered to con­trib­ute a set rate for health care be­tween eight and nine per­cent over the next three years. The school board con­tin­ues to push for at least a 15 per­cent monthly con­tri­bu­tion, the same that other dis­trict staffers, in­clud­ing cus­to­di­ans and bus driv­ers, pay.

Mean­while, Coun­cil oock’s health care con­tri­bu­tions are more in line with the Neshaminy School Board’s contact goals, as well as the state ar­bi­tra­tor’s re­port.

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