June 25, 2009

GEA, board talks fail

GEA, board talks fail
Silence fell over the room as the words were said.
“We’re at impasse.”
The words from Gary Thune, an attorney hired to conduct the negotiations for the Garrison School Board with the teachers, reverberated throughout the boardroom.
With that, members of the Garrison Education Association filed out of the meeting room silent, wearing a look of disappointment. There was no agreement. A final offer by the Garrison School Board Negotiating Committee was turned down by GEA. A counter offer by the teachers wasn’t even given a second thought. The matter now lies in the hands of a third party.
At what would turn out to be the final negotiations meeting Monday night the school board’s negotiations team, through Thune, laid out its final “take it or leave it” offer. The offer included an across-the-board raise of $2,000 per teacher for 2009-10 with a base starting salary of $27,500.
The following school year, the base would be $29,500 with an across-the-board raise of $3,000 per teacher. The cost to the district would be $303,200 over the course of the two school years, according to the board.
After receiving the proposal, GEA members caucused, then returned to the table questioning the estimated costs.
Hearing a clarification, GEA caucused once again. Coming back, a counter offer was given, one that has been on the table once before: a 6.5 percent raise for the first year and 8 percent for the following year.
Thune and the school’s negotiations team briefly caucused. There was no movement.
In the final discussion, GEA chief negotiator Dan Splichal said fair is not the same as equal. The sticking point for teachers is that an across-the-board increase gives a lower percentage increase to veteran teachers. “The proposal seems like it doesn’t value veteran teachers,” Splichal said. He said that under the board’s proposal, 19 teachers would be favored the first year and 11 would not; the second year 25 would be favored and seven would not.

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