In a labor dispute with the school district over a new contract, Albert Gallatin teachers rejected a report and recommendations of a state-appointed fact-finder.
The Albert Gallatin Education Association (AGEA) voted down the report on Aug. 6, according to Mary Ellen Jones, UniServ representative from the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) who serves as a labor relations specialist working on behalf of the teachers’ union.
The move came a week after the school board unanimously approved the document, which if accepted by both parties would form the basis of a new contract for teachers in the district, who have worked on an expired contract for the past year.
Following the union’s rejection of the report and the conclusion of a 10-day confidentiality period from the time of the report’s initial issuance, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board published the report Aug. 8 for public viewing. After a five-day cooling-off period, the two parties have five days to re-vote.
The school board is expected to vote Wednesday on the matter. The teachers will reconvene for a vote Thursday, said Jones.
If the report is again rejected, the two sides will return to the bargaining table.
District teachers, guidance counselors and nurses that comprise the AGEA — currently totaling approximately 232 employees — have been working without a contract since Aug. 15, 2018.
The district and the union entered fact-finding in June after negotiations failed to produce a contract. In May, the school board ratified a three-year contract retroactive to August 2018 that was rejected by the union.
The report was issued by fact-finder Michelle Miller-Kotula on July 29.
According to the report, the two parties began formal contract negotiations in January 2018 for the anticipated expiration of a five-year contract. The report states the two parties met approximately 17 times in an attempt to negotiate a new contract but were unable to reach agreement on all issues.
The report details information collected at a formal fact-finding hearing conducted in July to give both parties an opportunity to present testimony, examine and cross examine witnesses and introduce oral explanations and documentary evidence in support of their respective positions. The parties filed written statements of disputed issues with the fact-finder on more than a dozen matters, including term, salary schedules, medical insurance coverage and length of work day, among others.
Regarding salary, the union proposed step movement for teachers with additions of $714, $500, $727, $925 and $500 to every step for the years 2018-19 to 2022-23, respectively. The changes would cost the district between $505,046 and $566,280 in additional expenses towards teacher salaries each year.
The report states, “The (union) contends in comparison to the schools in Fayette County, this District has the lowest career earnings because of having the 2nd lowest starting salary, has the 3rd lowest career rate, and has the longest number of years to reach the career rate for individuals already in the bargaining unit at the start of the last CBA.
“The (union) submits attracting and retaining teachers will be difficult if the wages continue to stagnate.”
The district proposed no retroactive salary adjustment to the 2018-19 school year and wage increases of 4.3%, 1%, 2% and 2% for the four years spanning 2019-2023, respectively.
The district contends in the report that teachers received salary raises in the second semester of the 2017-18 school year.
“Those salary amounts were then effective for the (2018-19) status quo period and the (union’s) employees received salary increases during the status quo year by enjoying the benefits of the increased salaries from 2017-18 for a full school year,” the report reads.
Kotula, the appointed fact-finder, recommended in the report a four-year salary schedule for teachers that adds $500 to only the top step in the first year, then adds to all steps $500, $650 and $500 in each subsequent year.
Kotula recommended only a four-year collective bargain agreement rather the five-year contracts sought by the district and union. The district had proposed a “status quo” year for 2018-19 with the contract ending with the 2022-23 school year, while the union called for a CBA effective retroactive to Aug. 15, 2018, and ending Aug. 14, 2023.