School contract talks stall in Brentwood
By Stephanie Hacke
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 3:45 p.m.
A group of 20 support staffers — each wearing a red T-shirt and white pin with the words: “I work here. I live here. I vote here.” — quietly filled Brentwood Borough School Board chambers on Monday night.
Some carried signs, alerting board members and those in attendance that the 45 members of the Brentwood Education Support Professionals Association, or BESPA, already had gone 106 days without a new contract. They are working under the terms of an expired contract.
“We want them to know that we're not going away until we get a contract,” said Paul Girdany, UniServ representative with the Pennsylvania State Education Association, with which the local union is affiliated.
A four-year contract for BESPA members — who include paraprofessionals, secretaries, custodians, maintenance staff and cafeteria workers — ended June 30. Typically, the union and district leaders have been able to reach a contract agreement before the expiration, said BESPA Vice President and Elroy Elementary paraprofessional Susan Milius.
“We just are ready to be settled,” she said.
Contract talks have been under way since January, with meetings several times a month until now, Girdany said. As of Monday, there were no meetings set for future talks, he said.
“We have had generally productive negotiations,” school district solicitor John Vogel said.
“There's a general consensus between the negotiating teams” in regards to wages and benefits, he said.
The sticking point, Vogel said, is that “the district wants all applicants for support staffing jobs to be tested to determine if they're qualified.”
Union leaders are seeking to exempt current employees “in certain jobs” from the testing if they apply to switch to other specific jobs, Vogel said.
“The district believes strongly that this is a health and safety issue for our children and employees,” he said.
To that end, negotiations have stalled, Girdany said.
“We have some problems in negotiations,” Girdany said.
Girdany declined to elaborate on what the issues are with the contract and negotiations.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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