St. Lucie teachers union, School District at impasse

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — A special master may help hammer out a teachers contract after the School District ended five months of contentious negotiations Monday, saying it cannot reach an agreement with the union.

The district and teachers still disagree on pay, insurance and budget priorities.

If either side requests, a special master will be assigned by the state's Public Employees Relations Commission and will hear both sides, find common ground, then make recommendations on what the contract should be. Or the district and union can choose to skip the arbitration process and try their case in front of the School Board which, acting as a legislative body, can impose the contract on the teachers.

"There's no specific timeline for it," said Sue Ranew, the district's assistant superintendent for human resources. "It depends on whether one side or the other requests a special master or we just bypass the special master and go directly to the school board acting as the legislative body."

The last time the district and union were at an impasse was before Michael Lannon became superintendent in 2003. The district won that case, Ranew said.

Ranew formally declared the district was at impasse Monday by sending a letter to Mike Hogan, chairman of the state's Public Employees Relations Commission in Tallahassee and the St. Lucie Classroom Teachers Association and Classified Unit. Ranew requests the commission "implement impasse resolution procedure."

"We started in June, and we really have not made any progress," she said Tuesday. "The fiscal impact of the union's proposals has increased over the past five months instead of us getting closer, so our division is even greater than it was when we first started. The whole point of negotiations is to come together, and we don't seem to be able to do that."

Teachers Union President Vanessa Tillman said she was disappointed, but not surprised.

"I was hoping that we would be able to go back and have further conversations or clarity on some of the things that we left on the table," she said.

Meanwhile, about 300 specialized district employees and administrators — who are not represented by unions — were told via email Tuesday they may be receiving a one-time $742 bonus before the winter break, subject to School Board approval, Ranew confirmed.

The district has budgeted approximately $4 million to provide the district's 5,000-plus employees, including teachers, one-time bonuses of $742. However, at this time only the 300 employees will be receiving the bonus, which has been offered to the teachers but not acted on during negotiations.

That bonus remains an option for all employees, district officials said.

Lannon also informed Tillman on Monday she was uninvited from his Executive Council after many years' service on his management team.

"Should you decide once more that we shall again be collaborative in bargaining, in sharing true data and facts and in how we proceed to honestly inform the employees of the St. Lucie County District School Board regarding issues of grave importance to them (many of whom are dues paying members to your unions) then that invitation is again offered to you," Lannon wrote.

Tillman said she was disappointed and thinks that will be the district's loss.

"It's the process that you go through," Tillman said. "I represent my members and this is what my members have said that they want."

AT AN IMPASSE

WHAT TEACHERS WANT

The St. Lucie Classroom Teachers Association and Classified Unit's latest proposal from the Nov. 15 bargaining session included the following:

For 2012-2013, a 5 percent across the board increase, a step and no decrease to insurance; offer to work collaborative on overhaul of current plan.

For 2013-2014, the union proposes restoring all six lost steps. (The district estimates the cost of this proposal is an additional $18 million)

WHAT THE DISTRICT OFFERS

The St. Lucie County School District presented teachers with its latest proposal during the Oct. 24 bargaining session. It included:

$742 one-time bonus for teachers to be paid in last check before winter break; 50 percent of revenue if voters approve a special 1 mil tax referendum, overhaul of insurance plan, elimination of $400 cafeteria contribution.

In June 2013, 10 percent reduction in board contribution to health insurance.

In June 2014, 10 percent reduction in board contribution to health insurance if overhaul is not completed. (Bonus for all employees estimated at $4 million, changes in health insurance estimated to save $6.6 million and potential $30 million will be used for compensation upon passing of referendum.)

 

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