Mediation process ends for negotiations

The two unions that represent the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District employees and the district left mediation Wednesday with the two biggest issues — health care and salary still on the table.

The current collective bargaining agreement contract expires June 30. Since an agreement was not reached during mediation, the two sides have a chance to participate in bargaining. Arbitration has not yet been scheduled.

“The school district has asked the associations to meet to continue collective bargaining,” KPBSD Communications Specialist Pegge Erkeneff said.

There was some progress made during the mediation process, however. The district and the Kenai Peninsula Education Association reached a tentative agreement on three sections of their contract going back to the language in the current contract, most notably section 550, regarding the agency fee. The agency fee is what non-KPEA members pay in order to be represented by the union. KPEA President LaDawn Druce said in a February interview that the agency fee is $863 for certified employees that do not choose to be a member of KPEA. The dues for KPEA members is $1,152 for full time teachers. In earlier negotiations, the district proposed to strike the part of the section that says, “however, all employees who choose not to join KPEA shall be required as condition of employment to pay a representation fee to KPEA.” 

“I would like to say at this point we are certainly happy that is off the table and agreed to,” Druce said Wednesday. “When we got (the district’s) initial proposal, that was the most shocking thing to me.”

The Kenai Peninsula Educational Support Association and the district reached a tentative agreement on several items, including the agency fee article.

On Monday, the bargaining team from KPEA and KPESA presented the district with an updated health care proposal going in to mediation. In the new proposal, the unions are asking the district to make a 90 percent contribution of the health care program (estimated at $1,600 per employee per month) and employees to make a 10 percent contribution of the cost of the program for the three years of the contract. Under the unions’ proposal, the district would pay $1,440 per month per employee and the employee would pay $160 per month. 

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