School Workers Unions To Fight Freeze On Wages

March 10, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Two unions representing school employees said they would fight to protect the 8 percent raise guaranteed in their contract despite CountyExecutive Eileen M. Rehrmann's call for a universal freeze on salaries.

Christine Haggett, president of the union that represents 1,500 teachers, said that whatever position the school board takes on therequest, the situation "doesn't look good."

"Our position basically is that if our raises are not funded, theentire contract is open to negotiation," said Haggett. She said she will meet with members of the Harford County Education Association March 21 to gauge teachers' thoughts on the Rehrmann request to freeze local government employees' salaries.

Rehrmann froze the salaries,including automatic step or merit increases, for one year as of Monday and asked the Board of Education, the Harford County Public Library and Harford Community College to do the same for their employees.

County administrators said giving a 4 percent cost-of-living raise,the amount given to employees for each of the past two years, and step increases would have cost the county about $7.6 million.

An average county worker, with a salary of $25,758, would be giving up a $1,931.85 raise as a result of the freeze.

School administrators said the 8 percent raise promised to school employees and teachers raised the Board of Education's budget request by $7.3 million. An averageteacher, earning a salary of $36,072, would receive a $2,885.76 raise under the contract.

Albert Seymour, a spokesman for the county Board of Education, said the board has not yet decided whether to follow or oppose Rehrmann's suggestion to freeze school employees' wages.

Harford teachers are entering the last year of a three-year contract that guaranteed an 8 percent pay raise this year.

A new contract to succeed the existing one, which expires June 30, 1992 at the end of the next fiscal year, will likely be negotiated beginning in November, Haggett said. She would not comment on how the prospect of re-negotiating the existing contract would affect that schedule.

Linda Hash, president of the Harford County Education ServPlease see UNIONS, Page 9UNIONSContinued from Page 2ices Council, said her membership "understands the situation the superintendent is in."

"But it isan agreement, a recognized contract, and it should be honored," saidHash. She said a partial raise would be more acceptable than no raise, but then reiterated "it was a negotiated agreement and it should be honored."

Barbara Canavan, president of the Association of Public School Administrators and Supervisors of Harford County, declined to comment until she could meet with union members.

Representativesof other county government worker unions said they are willing to give up step raises of about 3.5 percent, and cost-of-living adjustments, usually about a 4 percent raise, for one year.

"If you're goingto have to hurt the county, we're not going to accept pay raises," said William Harmon, president of Local 1802 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 185 people.

"If we have to bite the bullet, we have to bite the bullet. We're all citizens of Harford County."

Jean Schilpp, presidentof MCEA Chapter 610, which represents more than 200 of the county's 1,163 employees, said her membership also was willing to go along with the pay freeze.

News of the salary freeze "was a real blow to everyone," Schilpp said. "But the membership is willing to go along with it to keep anyone from being laid off. If the teachers get a raise,that would be the second blow."

Schilpp said she believes teachers, like other county employees, deserve a raise.

"It's not that wedon't want them to get the raise, that's not the point. But if we'rein such dire financial straits, we all have to

give a little. Arewe the only ones giving?"

Schilpp said members of Chapter 610 hope that if the county's financial situation improves, Rehrmann would at least consider giving county employees step increases. Step increases for the past two years have been about 3.5 percent, county administrators said.

John Miner, president of the Harford County Deputy Sheriff's Union, said, "We're not happy, but we understand the county is in difficult financial shape. We are all county employees and we should all bite the bullet. We're willing to work with Mrs. Rehrmann."

Harmon said AFSCME Local 1802's support for Rehrmann has not wavered either.

"Poor Eileen -- wins the election and has a lot of problems," Harmon said. "But Eileen has promised to do her very best to avoid layoffs and help the citizens out, so we'll do our best to helpher and the county out."

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