Frederick school support, administrative unions OK contract -- Gazette.Net







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Although Frederick County teachers have not been able to settle on an contract agreement with the school board, the school system’s other employee unions — representing support employees and administrators — have announced their members are ready to take the board’s offer.

Members of the Frederick County Association of School Support Employees and the Frederick County Administrative and Supervisory Association have decided independently to accept contract proposals that would entitle employees to partial step increases.

Under the proposal, eligible employees would receive these increases in December, when they also will have to pay about 8 percent more for insurance. As part of the agreement, the school board has agreed to increase insurance contribution by 8 percent beginning July 1.

The unions announced their position Tuesday.

“I had a lot of emails asking questions,” said Michael Bunitsky, president of the administrators’ union. “Most people were disappointed that they aren’t getting a full increase. ... But most of them are very realistic in realizing that it is the first time we’ve been offered a raise in four years.”

Karen Blackwood, the support employees union president could not be reached for comment.

Angie Fish, school board president, said she was pleased with the decison of support employees and school administrators to accept the board’s offer.

“The offer on the table is the same for all three units,” Fish said.

The board has a three-year contract with its support employees union and a five-year contract with its administrators’ union. This year’s negotiations only address salaries and benefits.

The school board still is in negotiations with the Frederick County Teachers Association, which announced Monday that 68 percent of its 2,800 members voted against a contract offer that would have resulted in delayed step increases for eligible employees.

Brennan said Monday that teachers declined the proposal because they thought their offer was not comparable to ones in school systems statewide and to salary increases being given to county government employees.

“Almost everywhere people are getting a full increment,” Brennan said.

A step increase for the full year would raise pay for eligible employees by 3.5 percent. However, union leaders say teachers likely would receive about three-fourths of a percent more in their paychecks because the increase does not kick in until about halfway through the school year. The pay raise also is diminished because a 1.5 percent supplement offered to employees last year to help cover increased pension costs has been eliminated.

Under the offer, employees also would pay about 8 percent more for health insurance.

“We are going to come back to the table and come up with a new agreement,” Brennan said.

If the two bodies cannot reach an accord, they can declare an impasse, meaning the Maryland State Labor Relations Board — an independent agency that administers and enforces Maryland’s collective bargaining law — would come in to resolve the conflict.

But this procedure only is about 1 year old and can have an uncertain outcome. It also would mean both the board and union would have to pay additional fees, Brennan said.

“This is not ideal for anyone,” he added. “This is not what FCTA had hoped for this year.”

The lack of agreement about pay raises led teachers in March to begin working to the rule — working only the hours for which they are paid. Brennan said union members will continue the protest until an agreement is reached, even if that goes into the next school year.