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Pine-Richland teachers considering a strike

| Thursday, May 1, 2014, 4:42 p.m.

The Pine-Richland Education Association voted to authorize a strike Wednesday night, though teachers say they'll try to avoid the picket line.

The union will continue to negotiate with the Pine-Richland School Board. Negotiations have been ongoing for more than two years.

“No one wants a strike,” union President Trent Matteson said. “However, in making this decision, the membership of the PREA has clearly indicated to the board that we will take any and all steps available to us under Pennsylvania law in order to reach a contract settlement that treats all members of our union fairly and equitably.”

District officials did not comment on Thursday. The district's negotiations committee, made up of school board members, meets again on Monday.

The district wants to freeze pay for teachers at the top of the salary schedule, increase how much they contribute out-of-pocket for their health insurance, and remove an early-retirement incentive the union proposed and touted as a cost-cutting measure.

“Teachers in Pine-Richland are very concerned that through the life of the contract they will lose competitiveness with other school districts in the North Hills area,” said Fritz Fekete, a consultant for the union from the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

A fact-finder in March issued a report recommending annual pay be set at $41,798 for a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree and at $95,650 for an 18-year teacher with a doctorate, the top salary.

The teachers' contract expired at the end of June 2012. They have been working under the terms of that contract since then. The union represents about 335 teachers.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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