NEA staff agrees on contract; returns to work

Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The statewide teachers union and its staff have reached a deal on a new four-year contract, ending a strike by the union's 23 employees.

The National Education Association-Alaska and its employees in the National Staff Organization-Alaska each ratified a tentative agreement reached Friday with the help of a federal mediator.

Staff members were to return to work Tuesday morning, three weeks after they went out on strike.

Neither side would talk about contract details. Agreements between a union and its employees unlike those involving school districts are not public documents.

Both sides, however, said the new contract provides for salary increases, efforts to hold down health insurance costs and retirement incentives for senior staff.

''It was all about money,'' NEA-Alaska president Rich Kronberg told the Anchorage Daily News.

The teachers' union staff works out of Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. Staff members conduct negotiations, pursue grievances and help the statewide union with other matters.

NEA-Alaska professionals include four labor attorneys and seven others who have degrees in labor relations, said Jeff Cloutier, a union spokesman. The highest paid of them gets more than $100,000 annually, Kronberg said. NSO-Alaska leaders put that figure at about $95,000.

''I have got 31 years of experience, and I'm making that big (upper-end) salary,'' said Jeff Cloutier, an NSO-Alaska spokesman.

The other half of the NSO-Alaska members are the support staff, and their top-ranked earners make about $57,000 a year, exclusive of overtime and health insurance.

Teachers and other NEA-Alaska members are aware that most of the union staff earns ''a lot more'' than they do, Kronberg said.

Reactions vary. Some of the teachers believe staff are paid about right, he said, while others think staff salaries should be tied to that of teachers.

The agreement also creates a joint committee to try to close rifts created by the bargaining dispute, strike and disruption of services.

NEA-Alaska depends upon member dues, which have declined overall because of increased teacher retirements. Each member now pays $5 less in dues, for a total of $471 a year.

The contract settlement will not mean a rise in dues, Cloutier said.



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