School unions oppose new contract talks

June 21, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Employee unions have vowed to resist the school board's attempt to reopen contract negotiations at a meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. today.

Although billed as a session to discuss mileage reimbursement and health care benefits, sources said it will focus on whether the board will find the money to give employees a promised longevity raise worth $3.2 million. The raise was promised to school staff by the board after county government workers got one last year.

"We have to sit down at the table and talk to them because there isn't any money to fund the longevity increase and do everything else we have to do," one source said. "Something has to give."

The problem, say board watchers, is that unless the school board goes along with the County Council's recommended cuts to cover the raises, it will have to find the $3.2 million elsewhere.

And that, the sources said, may put a halt to the changes recommended in the so-called Baron report, a study issued last year after a teacher-student sex scandal that gained national attention.

The report recommended employing four people to help handle child abuse complaints and hiring a lawyer to represent only the school board. The current lawyer represents the board and the central office and school system staff.

"The council did provide money for the longevity increase in the $408 million education budget," said Greg Nourse, a county budget analyst. "But essentially they said that to get parity and longevity with county employees, school employees would have to go to an eight-hour day and would have to go on the same health plan as the county.

"If they wanted to fund the increase without meeting these spending guidelines, they would have to fire 40 people and give up their traditional Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plan. Either way they're going to have a real hard time," he said.

"It's a lot of money to come up with to do everything else they want, and that's why they need some concessions from the union to come up with that amount."

Members of unions representing school employees are upset at the thought of renegotiations.

"The county's letter specifically told them to give the raise, and now since they didn't get the teaching positions they wanted and the sex police they want to renegotiate?" said Richard Kovalent, executive director of the Association of Educational Leaders.

He vows the union, which represents principals and administrators, will not go back to the bargaining table.

Thomas J. Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, pointed out that teachers dropped a key lawsuit earlier this year.

"We lived up to our part of the bargain, we had peace and harmony all year," he said. "And all along, they've said funding the contract was their No. 1 priority. Well apparently it's not their No. 1 priority any more."

About 4,000 school system employees would qualify for the longevity raise, given simply because a person has served a certain number of years in a job.

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