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Plum School District, school aides agree on contract

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 10:21 p.m.

It took more than a year-and-a half of negotiations and fact finding, but in the end, the Plum School District and its administrative assistants reached an agreement on a contract.

The Plum School Board last week voted 8-0 to a three-year pact that is retroactive to July 1, 2011 and extends through June 30, 2014.

Board member Richard Zucco was not in attendance at the Nov. 27 meeting.

“I guess it's fair,” said Becky Gralewski, a payroll assistant and president of the Plum Borough School District Educational Secretaries/Educational Support Professionals, the union representing the 20 administrative assistants. “We would have liked more in salary increases.”

Gralewski said the union voted 15-0 to accept the terms of the contract that are identical to the fact-finder's recommendations released in August.

The fact-finder recommended, and the board and administrative assistants ultimately accepted, a pay freeze retroactive to 2011-12, followed by a 25-cents per hour increase for 2012-13 and a 35-cents-an-hour increase for 2013-14.

The aides also receive one more personal day — from two to three and three weeks vacation after five years. In the previous contract, administrative assistants earned three weeks of vacation after six years on the job.

The administrative assistants a few months ago had voted to accept the fact-finder's recommendations. The school board voted to reject the report. Board President Andrew Drake said the report didn't address all the points of dispute between the two sides.

The two sides then went back into negotiations.

Gralewski said the breakthrough in negotiations occurred when the administrative assistants agreed to drop an unfair labor practice action they filed against the district over the school board's hiring in 2011 of Kelly Educational Staffing Services based in Troy, Mich., to handle calling, assigning and doing payroll for substitute workers.

A Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board hearing examiner, in a proposed decision July 31, ruled that the district violated its contract with its administrative assistants by hiring an outside company to do the work. The district appealed the proposed decision.

The school board in the summer extended the contract for the staffing firm into the current school year.

“I don't like the idea that we still have Kelly,” Gralewski said.

Gralewski said the district was in the process of soliciting bids from outside contractors to perform the administrative assistants' duties.

Board member Sal Colella, who chairs the personnel committee, said with the vote to approve a contract, the board is no longer pursuing outsourcing the jobs.

Colella said he is pleased with the agreement.

“Sometimes it takes a third party to thread the needle for success between two parties,” Colella said.

Colella praised the employees for their strong work ethic.

“They are good people who come to work,” Colella said. “We have good employees in place.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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