Teacher contract talks at impasse State ruling sends matter to arbitration

April 04, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick has declared an impasse in the six-month contract talks between the Anne Arundel County Board of Education and the largest of its four employee unions.

That determination, made late Wednesday, sends the dispute between school officials and the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County to nonbinding arbitration. Negotiations broke down two weeks ago over about 20 items, and a last-ditch effort to restart them failed.

The union represents more than 4,000 teachers.

Wages and workplace issues are the biggest stumbling blocks. Teachers have gone two years without a raise and say they feel they are being asked to take on more responsibilities and larger classes without compensation.

"The board has adopted an attitude of not being serious about negotiating. They are treating it lightly. They have little respect for their employees," said John R. Kurpjuweit, president of the union. He said teachers were "insulted" by the offer of an across-the-board raise of less than 2 percent.

Last year, the school board approved a 2 percent raise. But the board stipulated that the raise would take effect only if the County Council approved the rest of the schools' operating budget intact. It did not, and nobody was surprised.

Kurpjuweit said that the latest offer won an indignant reaction from union representatives. The cost-of-living adjustment was low, and the board "wanted to add a day to the school year without more pay" and increase the number of required evening meetings from one to three a year, he said.

"A joint committee of the board and teachers found that teachers work an average of 54, 55 hours a week, and it is increasing. And how does the board respond? By saying, 'Work another day,' " Kurpjuweit said.

He would not discuss other specific proposals or what the union was seeking. Nor would Stephen Flavin, chief negotiator for the schools.

"There were several areas dealing with some existing contract language modifications that remain unresolved," Flavin said.

Flavin said the school system is nearing an impasse with a second union, the 750-member Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County. That group's leadership could not be reached yesterday.

The dispute over the teachers' contract goes to the American Arbitration Association, a national labor relations organization, which will forward a list of names of potential arbitrators to both sides. Each side eliminates the arbitrators it does not want until only one person is left. That person will hear both sides and issue findings within 30 days.

Negotiations opened Oct. 3 and were due to end by Jan. 15. Both sides agreed to an extension, saying they had lost time because of a death in a negotiator's family and winter illnesses.

Teachers are barred by law from striking but in past years have staged work-to-rule days, bought advertising space and lobbied officials.

Kurpjuweit said the only measure under consideration is having teachers contact the eight school board members.

Pub Date: 4/04/97

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