Associations, school district still at impasse

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Wednesday, July 22, 2015 10:55pm
  • News

Collective bargaining between the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Kenai Peninsula Education and Kenai Peninsula Support associations remains at an impasse.

The three entities agreed on April 15 that a hiring mediator is necessary to negotiate the teacher and support staff contracts originally set to begin for the 2015-2016 school year.

“No date has been set yet,” said KPESA President Patti Sirois. “Nothing has been resolved.”

On Feb. 9 the groups exchanged initial offers, which consisted of modifications to the 2012-2013 through 2014-2015 school year contracts, ranging from changes in language to increases in wages and revising health care options. The school district proposed one-year contracts, while the associations proposed renewing for three-year contracts.

Sirois said it has been challenging to schedule the start of the mediation process because members of the negotiating teams have other commitments during the summer months.

KPEA President Matt Fischer said the association started trying to schedule mediations since the first week of June.

The school district is still waiting to hear back from the Seattle office of the Federal Mediation Conciliation Service for their available dates, said school district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff.

The hired mediator will explain the process to the three groups before the process begins, Erkeneff said.

“The mediator will meet separately with the district and associations in order to discuss confidential information about bargaining positions and strategy,” Erkeneff said. “Then the mediator will exercise shuttle diplomacy between the groups, which in essence means conveying questions, supposals, and proposals seeking to find areas of compromise to work on.”

It will be up to the associations to decide whether or not the groups will be in the same rooms during the sessions, Erkeneff said.

“From the district perspective, the proposals from KPEA and KPESA would increase the budget deficit, require additional use of reserves, and are not sustainable based upon the revenue the district receives from borough and state funding,” Erkeneff said.

Sirois said she felt the KPESA proposal was reasonable, and that contracts have not kept up with the cost of living.

“It hits support staff harder because we make less money to begin with,” Sirois said.

There is no set date that mediation must be finished by, Erkeneff said.

Once a tentative agreement is reached between the three groups, the associations and the Board of Education must ratify the proposals.

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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