Teachers willing to take one-year wage freezeA work in progress with a ways to go is the best way to describe the negotiations between the Hudson School District and the bargaining units representing teachers, education and health assistants, nutrition employees and custodians.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
A work in progress with a ways to go is the best way to describe the negotiations between the Hudson School District and the bargaining units representing teachers, education and health assistants, nutrition employees and custodians.
Although contract talks are being held in closed session, the Star-Observer requested and received copies of each union’s last proposals (last two from the teachers union) from district administration under the public records law.
The Hudson Board of Education has publically directed the district negotiators, Deputy Superintendent Nancy Sweet and Financial Services Director Tim Erickson, to maintain their request that all three unions accept a wage freeze for the first year of the contract period. A one-year wage freeze has already been imposed on all non-union district employees.
Hudson teachers, along with other bargaining groups, are represented by WCEA, the West Central Education Association. The district has more than 400 certified teachers. Teachers are paid based on a salary grid that includes their years of experience as well as post-graduate education credits they earn. The grid contains 250 “cells” or positions on the grid, which is typical of teacher salary grids in other districts across the state.
Monday night, a teacher’s proposal lowered the demands made in the proposal dated Sept. 29.
In the new proposal, teachers are willing to accept the salary freeze proposed by the district for the 2009-10 school year. The new proposal is a two year contract. It asks for a 5.2 percent cell increase plus base increases totaling 7.6 percent for the 2010-11 school year. With benefits, the total package would increase 8.41 percent. Despite the freeze, there would be about a half-percent increase in 2009-10 benefits, bringing the two year package (wages and benefits) to just under 9 percent. Teachers could still get raises if they qualify for a new lane in the 2009-10 cell schedule.
Some other proposals, however, could affect the school’s final costs and those numbers have yet to be determined. For instance, teachers want to eliminate the top two steps in the salary schedule, essentially raising the base pay for beginning teachers. They also ask for more steps in the MA+45 credit lane, making the higher salary available to teachers with eight or more years of experience (who have the qualifying degree and credits). In the past, teachers needed at least 13 years of experience to qualify for the MA+45 lane.
The Oct. 12 proposal was less than the three-year proposal dated Sept. 29. In the Sept. 29 proposal the union asked for a three-year contract with the following:
According to Sweet and Erickson, the teachers have also asked for an increase on the base pay for years of service as follows:
That would have equated to a 16.5 percent raise over the three-year period of the contract.
Under the old Qualified Economic Offer (QEO), salary and benefit increases could not equal more than 3.8 percent per year. The QEO was eliminated in Gov. James Doyle’s budget that passed last summer.
There are approximately 170 employees who fall into the group of educational assistants, health assistants and nutrition specialists. They are compensated on a wage scale that includes three steps based on years of service. They have requested a $1 per step increase.
Depending on where an employee falls on the scale, their wage would increase over the two-year contract period, 2009-10 and 2010-11, between 6.3-8.6 percent.
This group includes regular education assistants as well as those working in special education and as media assistants. It also includes cooks and health assistants. Their pay under the current proposal ranges from $12.58 per hour for beginning assistants to $16.91 for a head cook based on years of service.
The nearly 60 custodians in the district are requesting a 4 percent increase at each of the three steps on their salary scale for this year and next. Their contract covers part-time, full-time and head custodians and also allows for different rates of pay for head custodians at specific buildings based on their responsibilities. The proposed hourly pay scale ranges from $12.74 to start to $18.88 for a head custodian at the secondary level for this school year; and from $13.25 to start to $19.63 for 2010-11.
Sweet said contract negotiations are continuing with all three bargaining units.
When asked about contract negotiations at other districts around the state, Sweet confirmed that between 30-40 districts of the more than 400 in Wisconsin have reached contract agreements. To her knowledge, none of them have settled for the wage freeze requested by the Hudson School Board.
If the district and the unions cannot reach an agreement, a mediator will be brought in to determine if further negotiations could bring about a settlement or if they have reached an impasse. If they are at an impasse, the parties would enter into arbitration.
Editor Doug Stohlberg contributed to this story.