Teacher-contract talks may come to an impasse

March 25, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Negotiations with Howard County teachers on a new contract are not going well and may end up in an impasse, according to the school superintendent.

"Within the next 24 to 48 hours, we will have an impasse declared or a handshake," said county Superintendent Michael E. Hickey in an interview. "I think the chance is we're going to an impasse."

State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick can declare an impasse when she determines that the county and the teachers union have met enough times to be able to reach an agreement. With negotiations stopped, she calls in a third party -- an arbitrator -- to work out an agreement.

The county and the Howard County Education Association, which represents more than 2,500 teachers, met for the last time in a face-to-face meeting March 16. The two sides have been negotiating since November for a new contract. The current one-year agreement expires June 30.

"At this point, I can concur with the superintendent that it appears that we will be at impasse within the next day or two," said James R. Swab, the union president.

Both sides said they would not disclose issues they disagreed upon until they reach an impasse. Mr. Hickey would only say that they disagreed on "contract language and money."

"The issues under discussion are confidential to the end of the process," he said. "Hopefully, that will be soon and we can tell you all the good news. But it looks like we're going to an impasse."

Mr. Hickey said the teachers union and the county have reached an impasse most of the time but have been able to work it out.

"This is just normal process in negotiations," Mr. Hickey said. "It's part of the ritual."

The teachers union held an emergency meeting last night with its negotiations team and board of directors.

It held an informational meeting with some teachers Tuesday night, when "we did not have any good news to report concerning the negotiations," Mr. Swab said. "The Board of Education proposals are very disappointing. We'll leave it up to that."

No school employees, including the superintendent, received pay raises during fiscal 1992, even though the teachers' contract promised a 6 percent increase. In June, the school board approved 2.5 percent increases in the current school year for teachers, principals, supervisors, secretaries and instructional assistants.

At the beginning of negotiations, teachers were upset that Mr. Hickey received a 10 percent pay raise -- $109,106 this year, up from the $99,106 he earned in 1990-91.

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