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Plum teachers authorize strike if contract talks fail

Michael DiVittorio
| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, 10:03 p.m.

Plum School District teachers may go on strike this school year should contract talks fail.

Plum Borough Education Association members voted 176-0 Nov. 20, to authorize its negotiation team to call for a strike if necessary.

Total membership is 232. The district would be notified at least 48 hours in advance of any strike.

“We’re still negotiating,” union President David Gray said Tuesday night. “We just feel at this time the best thing to do to move forward is to take a strike authorization vote. We aren’t striking right now.”

District officials let community members know of the latest contract negotiation developments via a letter from their chief negotiator, attorney Michael Brungo.

“The Plum Borough School District’s primary goal is to exceptionally prepare our students for success,” he wrote. “It is a priority to communicate with our parents, students and members of the community to keep all stakeholders informed about events that may cause a disruption that would impact that goal.”

The letter, posted on the district’s website, goes on to explain how students are required by state law to receive 180 days of instruction, and a strike would likely cause changes to the school calendar.

“By communicating with our families as soon as possible about this potential disruption to the school year, we are hoping to provide adequate time for families to plan how to best address their daycare and other needs in the event a teacher strike should happen,” Brungo wrote.

Forbes Road Career and Technical Center students would continue to attend and receive transportation should a Plum strike occur. Teachers there have twice postponed striking this month to allow for more contract negotiations.

The last Plum negotiation session was Nov. 6. The next is set for Nov. 29.

School board President Steve Schlauch deferred questions about contract negotiations to Brungo.

Gray declined to talk in detail about negotiations.

“The usual issues are the one’s we’re dealing with,” he said. “There has been progress in some areas and there hasn’t been progress in others.”

The last four-year contract expired June 30. The district let go of multiple staffers due to budget cuts ahead of the 2018-19 school year.

“We’ve lost 30 teaching positions last year, and the district seems to be taking that savings someplace else rather than a new contract,” Gray said.

Union calculations indicate the district saved approximately $3.5 million with salaries, retirements, health care and pensions as a result of those personnel losses.

Gray wanted to let parents know a strike is a last resort, and contract talks haven’t broken off.

“We’re going to continue providing the students of our district with the best education possible,” Gray said. “We’re going to continue to do our jobs and hopefully negotiations will progress, and we won’t ever need to strike. We want parents to know that educating their children is the most important thing to us.”

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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