Unfair practice claim denied

Labor agency rules complaint filed against school district unfounded

Posted: Wednesday, December 04, 2002

An unfair labor practices complaint filed against the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District by area teacher and support staff unions is without probable cause, the Alaska Labor Relations Agency ruled last week.

The Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association filed the complaint against the district in July, alleging the district failed to bargain in good faith during the ongoing contract negotiation process.

The five-count complaint charged that the district violated good faith bargaining by: discussing mediation prior to negotiation teams mutually declaring impasse; delaying bargaining and stalling at the table; speaking to the press despite an alleged agreement between the teams to issue only joint press releases; filing an unfair labor practices complaint against the associations while negotiations continued; and engaging in direct contact with bargaining unit members.

The agency has spent several months reviewing evidence provided by both the associations and the district and, on Nov. 27, filed an 18-page ruling dismissing the case.

"The Alaska Labor Relations Agency has concluded its preliminary investigation of the unfair labor practice charge filed in this case and determined that probable cause does not exist to support a violation ...," the agency wrote in a notice of dismissal.

"The reason is that the associations have failed to provide evidence that shows the district violated the duty to bargain in good faith, dominated or inferred with the formation, existence or administration of an organization or inferred with employees' protected rights. ..."

A spokesperson for the KPEA was unaware of the ruling Tuesday afternoon and declined comment until more information was available.

Gary Whiteley, assistant superintendent of instruction, said the district was pleased with the outcome of the investigation.

"We're not sure what it means (to the negotiation process) specifically, but, in general, we feel vindicated that we have bargained in good faith as a district."

Whiteley added that the district continues to seek a settlement in the bargaining process.

"We look forward to reaching an agreement that best serves the children of the Kenai," he said.

The complaint was not the only one filed during the bargaining process. The district filed a similar complaint against the associations in May after an alleged e-mail security breach. The district maintained that the associations gained an unfair bargaining advantage via intercepted e-mails between senior administrators and school board members. The Alaska Labor Relations Agency did find probable cause in that case, and Jean Ward, the agency investigator assigned to the case, said a prehearing conference should be scheduled in the coming weeks.

Despite these complaints, the negotiations that began in January have continued throughout the year.

The teams declared impasse in September and met with a federal mediator last month. Though the mediator left town without a settlement, meaning that the process is set to go into arbitration in the next few months, the teams continued to meet and exchange proposals prior to Thanksgiving to try to reach an agreement.

No future meetings have been scheduled, but both sides say the doors remain open.

Salary scales and health insurance payment plans remain the outstanding issues stalling an agreement for a contracts to replace those that expired in June.

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