Plum schools, custodians to resume negotiations

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Representatives of the Plum School District and its custodial and maintenance employees are expected to go back to the bargaining table this month.

The anticipated meeting is a consequence of the workers, members of Teamsters Local Union 205, last month rejecting the district's contract offer, Plum School Board members said.

Union officials could not be reached for comment.

“Unfortunately, we have to go back to the table and revisit (negotiations) this month,” board member Michelle Stepnick said. “I don't want to see anything happen to the custodial staff. I have a great deal of respect for them. Hopefully, we will work things out.”

The workers' rejection of the deal occurred less than a month after the school board at the Nov. 26 meeting approved a three-year contract that was retroactive to July 1 and would have run through July 1, 2016.

Board members declined to provide details of the proposed pact. They cited the fact that the Teamsters voted it down, and negotiations are expected to resume.

Employees are continuing to work under the terms of the contract that expired June 30. Custodians at the highest level of the pay scale receive $20.30 an hour, while maintenance workers at that point on the scale make $20.80. New hires in both categories are paid $11.50 an hour.

There are about 40 employees in the two categories.

The workers paid more in the expired contract for health benefits than they had in the past.

Board member Kevin Dowdell, chairman of the personnel committee, said one of the issues the district addressed in the negotiations is what he termed an absentee problem among the workers.

“We have had a 50-percent absentee rate on a given day,” Dowdell said. “We are trying to resolve it so we have enough people in the buildings. Some kids come in the next day, and the classrooms aren't cleaned. We've got to get these schools cleaned.”

Dowdell declined to discuss the school officials' planned remedy for the absentee issue because of the pending restart of negotiations.

Board member Joe Tommarello said he also wants to see the contract settled.

Tommarello said the board might consider proposals it received from private companies for custodial and maintenance services.

“I hope we can work something out,” Tommarello said.

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

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