Labor negotiations between the San Carlos Elementary School District and teachers union have stalled, leading to an impasse process to resolve disputes Wednesday.
Salary negotiations began around the end of January, with the San Carlos Teachers Association asking for a 2 percent raise, along with higher contributions to health and wellness costs since health care costs have risen. The district offered a 1 percent one-time bonus for the 2013-14 school year, with a .5 percent salary schedule increase toward health and welfare. The two mutually agreed to go to impasse after the teachers rejected the latter proposal.
Negotiations have not gone well at all, said Sarah Amos, co-chair of the union’s negotiation team and teacher at Central Middle School.
“We’ve been very patient with them,” she said. “We are always hopeful.”
According to Amos, negotiations were pushed off until May to see how Gov. Jerry Brown’s state budget revision shook out. The governor’s May revision budget proposal did not improve the district’s financial future, according to a district statement. In fact, if the proposed mandatory increase in district contribution to employees’ pension funds is adopted, there will be an unforeseen additional expense of nearly $200,000 per year, according to a district statement.
Amos doesn’t trust the projections though, Amos said. She said the district’s statement also left out the fact the district wanted to keep class size high as part of the deal.
“They’ve underprojected their reserves,” she said. “Their projections are inaccurate and I’m betting they’re either going to show they’ll stay the same or have increased. I’m a little incensed and a little angry — we’re not allowed to put out a statement.”
Meanwhile, the district contends its funding level under the Local Control Funding Formula is the lowest in San Mateo County. In addition, district officials said San Carlos was the only district in the county to grant ongoing salary increases for the last two years — 2 percent in the 2011-12 school year and 3 percent in the 2012-13 school year. In last year’s negotiations, the parties acknowledged and signed off on an agreement that stipulated that the 3 percent raise would significantly impact the district’s ability to negotiate further raises in 2013-14, according to the statement.
“The two consecutive years of raises were granted while many districts and employees across the state were still experiencing wage cuts, flat salaries and/or one-time salary increases,” wrote Superintendent Craig Baker and Chief Operating Official Robert Porter in a joint statement. “Despite its low funding level, San Carlos salaries rank among the highest of state-funded San Mateo County school districts. The district is eager to begin the mediation process and come to a mutually beneficial outcome for all.”
The district and teachers will now enter mediation with a third party. The mediator will be appointed to assist the union and district in resolving their differences. Mediation can last for one meeting or for months, at the complete discretion of the mediator. If mediation is unsuccessful and the mediator releases the parties, the next step is a fact-finding process. If this too fails, there could be a strike.
“While it is disappointing not to come to agreement on a contract prior to the close of the 2013-14 school year, we are hopeful that the mediation process will allow for the two parties to open new pathways for settlement,” according to the district statement.
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