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School labor talks continue

District, unions meet before October arbitration, fail to reach agreement

Posted: September 29, 2012 - 9:48pm  |  Updated: September 29, 2012 - 9:51pm

A last-minute Wednesday meeting between the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District failed to produce a new labor contract.

The KPEA, which represents certified teachers and the KPESA, which represents support staff in the district, called the meeting before the three go into non-binding arbitration Oct. 1 in an attempt to produce an agreement.

The current agreement expired on June 30 and the district started the school year with temporary contracts.

KPEA President LaDawn Druce said the associations presented the district with a two-year supposal which she called a ‘verbal offer’ after representatives from the district said part of their hang-up was uncertainty about what the consumer price index will be in three years.

According to a joint media release from the two unions, the two-year agreement asked for a salary increase aligned with the consumer price index which would be a 2.8 percent increase during the 2012-13 school year and a 2.5 percent increase during the 2013-14 school year.

“If that’s what’s holding it up then, my God, we’ll do a two-year agreement,” Druce said. “That’s not what we went in talking about doing, but it seemed kind of silly not to just put it out there as a supposal, if that truly is a hang up.”

The associations offered a two-year contract agreement which was rejected by the district, at a Wednesday’s meeting.

According to the media release, the associations’ proposal in these two years is approximately $1.5 million less than the amount the district was proposing in their last best offer last spring.

However, the district’s last best offer was a three-year agreement and according to a comparison between the district’s proposal and the union’s proposal provided by Druce, the $1.5 million figure drops to $839,000 when all three years are considered.

“The district is surprised that the associations would distribute misleading information about the costs of their financial proposals as a way to discredit the district’s last offer,” Pegge Erkeneff, district spokesperson wrote in an email. “The district believes that its employees, and all members of the educational community in the borough, (will) understand that there are two sides to the story of these negotiations. The district does not agree with the amount of savings claimed by the associations and is concerned there are comparability issues.”

Druce said the two-year figure in the associations’ media release was an “apples to apples” comparison based on the two-year verbal offer and the first two years of the district’s three-year proposal.

She said the district and the unions “weren’t that far apart” on the dollar figures, but the two had differences in the health care contribution amounts and salary increases, among other things.

“For the dollar amount that’s on the table it is very close to being the same amount of money, it’s just how you want to divvy it up,” she said.

The next step between the district and the two unions is non-binding arbitration scheduled for Oct. 1, 2, and 5.

Druce said the unions would not present information from their two-year verbal supposal during the arbitration, instead the employees would return to their three-year offer.

“The district will present its factual case at the advisory arbitration and looks forward to the arbitrator’s report, which should be detailed and informative and is also a public record that will be made available to interested persons,” Erkeneff wrote.

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