10/19/07

Lake-Lehman teachers strike: Day 4

On Thursday, Lake-Lehman teachers’ fourth day on the picket line, representatives from the union and school board indicated they are willing to sit down and talk. The question is who will initiate the contract talks.

“The ball’s in their court. We’re waiting for a legitimate, realistic proposal to come our way,” Pennsylvania State Education Association spokesman Paul Shemansky said, referring to the school board.

Board member Mark Kornoski said the teachers’ PSEA representative John Holland should contact the district’s attorney, Charles Coslett, or the state mediator, Clark Connors, if the union wants to set up a meeting.

But Kornoski admitted he would like talks to happen.

“I will talk to Attorney Coslett and the rest of our committee and see what they want to come up with,” he said.

The teachers union’s position is that the board’s last offer of Oct. 8 is unacceptable because the board gave it to the public and media first.

“The point we feel people are missing here is that last proposal they gave violated the labor laws of Pennsylvania,” Shemansky said. “That may be their last proposal, but we’re not seeing that as a legal proposal because they’re not following the guidelines. We’re not going to reward them for breaking the law.”

Health insurance premium sharing and salary raise percentages are two major sticking points. In its last proposal, the board suggested a three-tiered premium share, with teachers paying 2 percent, 3.5 percent or 5 percent based on where they are on the salary scale. Shemansky called the concept “anti-union” and said it was unacceptable.

A board complaint is that although the district gave the union several offers, the union hasn’t given any counter-offers or budged from its initial request for a 4.5-percent raise and no premium share.

Asked if the union would consider submitting a proposal of its own or else give the board an idea of what its members want, Shemansky said, “If they send us a legal proposal ... the negotiating team will take a look at it and decide where to go from there.”

Teachers will continue to picket Friday. They will be joined by members of the state chapter of the AFL-CIO at 10:30 a.m. at the Lake-Lehman Junior-Senior High School.

The state Department of Education still has not released its calculations of how long the strike can last.

(zwire.com)

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