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Shaler Area teachers to strike if no summer deal

| Monday, June 17, 2013, 7:31 p.m.

Shaler Area teachers will exercise their right to strike if the union and district officials cannot reach a contract agreement over the summer.

On June 13, Shaler Area Education Association (SAEA) representation delivered a strike notice to the district administration saying that a strike will begin on the first scheduled school day for students, Sept. 3.

“It's unfortunate that it has come to this,” said Melissa Ravas, president of the SAEA, which represents 380 teachers. “SAEA has been working tirelessly over the last 30 months to avoid a work stoppage and to reach a fair and equitable settlement. Unfortunately, the board has not been reasonable. They actually presented a regressive proposal during fact-finding, which moved us further apart.”

Shaler Area teachers have been working under the terms of the previous contract since it expired Aug. 15, 2011, and union and district officials have been meeting since January 2011 to negotiate a new contract.

The district requested a second fact-finding report, the maximum allowed during a negotiations process, which was delivered May 20. Though it was approved by the school board, the union rejected it twice during the two required votes.

In November, the Shaler Area Education Association voted to authorize the union leadership to call a strike.

Under the collective bargaining legislation, teachers are required to give 48 hours' notice.

Superintendent Wes Shipley said if the teachers do choose to strike, the negotiations will move to “last best offer arbitration” during which time the district and union will state their cases in front of an arbitrator who also will have the fact-finder's report and would issue a nonbinding settlement.

School Board President James Giel said the school board plans to continue to negotiate with the union negotiation team and, in an open letter to the teachers' union dated June 7, offered 34 possible dates over the summer for the parties to meet.

“We will invite them back … and vigorously try to negotiate this contract over the summer months,” Giel said earlier this month.

The complete text of the fact-finder's report is available on the district's website at www.sasd.k12.pa.us/TeacherNegotiations1.aspx. The next negotiation session has not yet been scheduled.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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