10/9/07

Judge ducks teachers union strikers

The eighth day of the Harrison Hills (OH) teacher strike saw both parties back in court Monday, but a judge delayed the planned contempt of court hearing and urged the union and administration to resolve their differences.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Jim Drexler said the Harrison Hills Teachers Assn. was making contract demands outside the limits of the district’s finances, while HHTA officials said they weren’t offered the deal the board published on the school Web site.

The union and administration were due before Judge Michael Nunner of Harrison County Common Pleas Court for a hearing alleging violations of an agreement reached last week that limits the number of pickets at each school. That pact arose from alleged injuries to union members by security vans and claims by the administration that teachers purposely were blocking those vans.

However, Nunner pushed the hearing back to Oct. 18 and asked the two sides to work diligently toward a solution for the sake of the county at large.

“What he pretty much told us on that was that everyone should sit back and take a deep breath and use common sense,” Drexler said. He added that the district hoped to schedule more negotiations with the federal mediator soon.

Several hours of negotiations with the mediator Sunday in Weirton, W.Va, failed to yield an agreement. In the board’s final proposal (available at www.harrisonhills.k12.oh.us), Drexler said, the district offered teachers 3 percent raises for the next two years, lower prescription co-payments and kept maximum health care premiums at $49, while asking teachers to sacrifice some insurance coverage.

Union spokeswoman Linda Rusen said Monday that neither their negotiating team nor their membership at large had been offered the deal involving 3 percent raises. She also said the union wanted a three-year contract.

Drexler also said the board had given ground on a no-reprisal clause the union was unhappy with because it didn’t cover parents and students who acted in support of the strike. Rusen said the union was concerned because protections for the district’s classified staff weren’t included in the no-reprisal clause.

Also Monday, the district sent a press release stating it would file a second unfair labor practice complaint with the State Employment Relations Board. The complaint says that on Sept. 26, HHTA members erected a sign near school board member Judy Crawshaw’s place of employment “in an effort to disparage and discredit” her, which the district said is a violation of state law.

Rusen and Ohio Education Assn. representative John Avouris expressed surprise over the filing, saying they hadn’t been notified of it. Rusen also said she had no knowledge of union members erecting any such sign.

(timesreporter.com)

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