Teachers union wants state to declare talks impasse

March 27, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Deriding Anne Arundel County school officials for wanting to "throw pennies at us," the union that represents county school teachers has asked state officials to declare an impasse in contract negotiations and bring in an arbitrator.

Six months of talks ended Tuesday night, as the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County and school officials failed to agree on 20 issues, the most substantial of which was a raise.

"They weren't even offering [a 2 percent pay increase]. That was a real slap in the face," TAAAC President John R. Kurpjuweit said, noting that the cost of living has risen about 5 percent since members of TAAAC, the largest of the four county school system unions, got a raise two years ago.

He would not say how much the union was seeking, but he said that "losing money was particularly hard to take."

School officials said they were not ready to give up and were trying to make reasonable offers.

"I certainly do not think we have exhausted all discussions at this point," said school board President Joseph H. Foster. "I think a declaration of impasse would be premature at this time."

The union, which represents 4,000 teachers, sent a letter requesting a declaration of an impasse to Nancy S. Grasmick, state superintendent of schools. March 17 but then agreed to return to the table.

But Kurpjuweit said they were getting nowhere.

If Grasmick declares an impasse, it would be the second consecutive county teachers' contract to go to arbitration.

TAAAC officials said negotiations had not become rancorous, but the union leaders clearly were ratcheting up the rhetoric while school officials stayed quiet.

"It's an insult," Kurpjuweit said of the most recent school system contract offer.

Any negotiated raises would become part of the budget request the school board submits to County Executive John G. Gary.

He may reject any sums in the school budget request, but the County Council can restore them in adopting a budget for the county.

Last year, the board asked the county for a 2 percent raise for teachers with the caveat that all other budget requests had to be met first. They weren't.

Kurpjuweit said teachers realized that that raise request was little more than a gesture.

"We had kind of a mind-set that we wanted at least 2 percent from last year and they would not renege on that," Kurpjuweit said.

Superintendent Carol S. Parham has recommended that the 8,500 school employees get raises but did not offer a figure.

Some money is set aside for pay raises in the board's budget recommendation.

Several board members have said that if other county government union members are given raises, school employees should receive increases of equal value.

Teachers were supposed to have a new contract in place Jan. 15. But talks proceeded more slowly than expected, because bargaining sessions were canceled because of a death in a school system negotiator's family and bouts of flu.

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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