4 school unions agree to take joint job actions

June 18, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Representatives of four Anne Arundel County employee unions agreed yesterday to form a coalition and to take joint job actions this year. The unions took the action after they received no pay increases for the third year in a row.

"There is a lot of anger out there," said Thomas J. Paolino, president of the largest union, the 3,900-member Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County.

At least two unions, representing teachers, classroom assistants and Board of Education secretaries, are threatening to begin a work-to-rule job action that they say would jeopardize schools' ability to open and run properly come fall.

Mr. Paolino said three unions that represent school employees and one that represents other county workers sent representatives to yesterday's hastily called meeting. He said other unions have indicated interest in joining the coalition.

Altogether, nearly one dozen organizations represent about 10,000 workers in county government and the school system.

The County Council proposed this month giving government and school workers a 3 percent raise. But County Executive Robert R. Neall moved to thwart the council, saying he will consider releasing money for a pay raise for government workers in January, depending on the county's financial condition.

The school board did not seek salary increases for its workers and this week voted to go along with Mr. Neall's budget request that $3.1 million be used to hire personnel for the elementary schools rather than for a raise.

Last year, all county employees were furloughed, and the school unions say the raise would do nothing more than restore the lost dollars.

The school board, in adopting a $383.5 million budget this week, said that restoring the lost dollars was not equivalent to giving a 3 percent raise because the pay increase would set a higher salary level.

The unions are challenging the involuntary furloughs in U.S. District Court in Baltimore in a case to be heard next month.

Only those workers who received step increases saw their salaries increase.

The unions, which in the past have cooperated on some political issues, say they decided to band together to capitalize on the clout a larger number of workers taking job actions could have and because they believe their employers have become hostile.

"The climate has changed. The mood has changed. We have a county executive that does not support his employees. We see that attitude starting to develop on the Board of Education side," Mr. Paolino said.

The union representatives expect to sign an agreement next month, but for now they do not know what job actions each union will take. State law bars public employees from striking.

Dee Zepp, president of the 600-worker Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County, said much will not be done around schools this summer because she is recommending that her union members work no overtime.

Last summer, union members worked hundreds of extra hours to get schools ready to open, but this summer, she said, board members are welcome to take on the challenge themselves or find volunteers.

Mr. Paolino said a work-to-rule action would put an end to many evening events, extra help for students and after-school


"I would be sorry to see that go into effect," said C. Berry Carter II, superintendent of schools.

"Everyone recognizes that teachers and other employees of the school system routinely work extra hours," he said.

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