11/13/07

Striking teachers reject settlement

The strike by teachers in the Seneca Valley (PA) School District appears set to go the distance after talks Sunday failed to produce progress.

With no further talks scheduled, teachers would return to the classrooms on Friday, as required by state law stipulating 180 days of instruction by June 15. They have been on strike since Oct. 15.

District negotiators said they offered the union three wage proposals during about a two-hour meeting at the district's central office. The offers were just repackaged versions of the 4 percent pay increase teacher representatives have turned down for months, said Patrick Andrekovich, chief negotiator for the 585-member Seneca Valley Education Association.

A state mediator ended the meeting after district representatives said they are unwilling to move from their offer of a 4 percent raise, Andrekovich said. He said the union has room to move, but will not give another offer until the board adjusts its proposal.

"We showed up today with the authority to bargain, and the board didn't do any bargaining. They gave us the same proposals we've been given before," he said. Seneca Valley teachers' average pay is $53,500 a year.

According to an e-mailed statement from the district, the wage options offered by the district were for raises of 4 percent in each year of a five-year contract; a pay raise ranging from $2,142 in the first year to $2,506 in the fifth year, which would give some teachers more than 4 percent and others less, depending on their prior salary; or average wage increases of 4 percent, with some getting more and others less based upon the board's acceptance of the union's distribution of wage increases.

On health care, the district offered to use the district's health care plan as modified by a fact finder, according to the district's statement. Teachers would contribute $10 per pay period to the premium cost, rising to $15 in July 2009 and $20 in July 2010.

District negotiators could not be reached for elaboration.

Andrekovich said the district's proposal would add five steps to the pay scale, increasing the time it takes for a teacher to reach the top of the pay scale from 19 years to 24 years.

"All three would destroy our salary schedule. We have no intention of destroying our salary schedule," Andrekovich said.

The district has charged that the union has not allowed teachers to vote on its proposals, making talks useless. Andrekovich said a confidential survey of teachers found 99 percent found the district's offer insufficient.

"We're very aware of what our members want," he said. "This is a ploy to avoid the real issue. The real issue is the district's unwillingness to bargain."

The school board meets at 8 tonight in the intermediate high school auditorium.

(pittsburghlive.com)

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