Teachers union hints at possible Allegheny Valley school strike
The threat of a teachers' strike looms in the Allegheny Valley School District, judging by comments a Pennsylvania State Education Association official made Wednesday about the status of contract negotiations.
It seemed two weeks ago as if it wouldn't be long before district and union officials would be signing a contract, given the rosy picture they painted about a bargaining breakthrough.
It turns out negotiations fell apart as quickly as they gained steam. The PSEA issued a statement yesterday accusing school board President Scott Redman of employing "stall tactics" through his decision to cancel a bargaining session planned for last night.
The union, which has been without a contract for more than a year, presented a proposal to the district on Monday, expecting to discuss it last night.
"The association has always done the heavy lifting in these negotiations," Allegheny Valley Education Association President Jennifer Novich said. "Based on what the teachers presented Monday, the parties should have a tentative agreement right now. Instead, the teachers have a canceled meeting."
According to the PSEA, the union's proposal includes a 250 percent increase to the teachers' present health insurance contribution as well as shaving 2.72 percent from the payroll in the first year of the contract.
The teachers currently contribute 2 percent of their salary toward medical benefits. A 250-percent increase would mean the teachers would contribute 7 percent of their salary health toward health insurance.
"Our proposal has accumulated salary increases that are less than the ($1.45 million) figure that Mr. Redman publicized and claims to support," Novich said. "He apparently can't make up his mind, or he wants us to try hitting a moving target. The stall tactics are disappointing."
A contract proposal submitted by a state fact-finder would force the district to negotiate a total increase in teacher salaries of about $1.5 million. Redman has urged the union to accept the terms of the proposal, saying the district can't afford anything more.
Redman responded to the union's accusations about stall tactics by saying he informed Novich on Monday that district officials might need more time to review the union's proposal.
"I told her we might have to reschedule Wednesday's meeting because we might not have enough time to provide a response," he said. Novich and other union officials "didn't object at that time and seemed to convey an understanding that it may take additional time to approve and issue a response."
Redman added he suggested having the sides meet this coming Wednesday or Thursday, a proposal he said union officials turned down without explanation.
Butch Santicola, the union's PSEA representative, accused Redman of "misdirecting everybody" involved in the process.
In response to being asked about the potential for a strike, Santicola said, "Unless there's a real change, we've got a serious problem on our hands. If this same approach keeps occurring, we are leaning toward a strike."
The first day of school is set for Aug. 30.