Mediation yields no results for school district, associations

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, September 22, 2015 10:29pm
  • News

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Kenai Peninsula Education and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support associations did not reach a tentative agreement through the closed mediation process that took place Monday and Tuesday.

From here the school district’s negotiation team or the associations, which chose to work together during collective bargaining for teacher and support staff contracts originally set to begin on July 1, may chose to again meet face-to-face or request entering advisory arbitration. The next step in the dispute resolution process, arbitration, involves a mutually selected arbitrator to recommend solutions for areas where an agreement has not been reached.

School district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff, speaking on behalf of the school district’s negotiating team, and KPEA President Matt Fischer and KPESA President Patti Sirois, who were speaking on behalf of the associations, said they will not discuss the content of the mediation. The school district sent out a press release following the conclusion of the process Tuesday.

The school district “is still analyzing and reviewing what occurred in the mediation process,” before they submit a decision to move into arbitration or meet again face-to-face, Erkeneff said.

The teacher and support associations compiled a mutual statement Tuesday. Fischer said the statement generally addresses the 2015 collective bargaining process, not specifically mediation.

“The main sticking points remain salary, health care and contract duration,” according to the statement. “The (school) district is offering a one-year agreement (for this current year) that includes a one-time only $500 bonus outside of the salary schedule and the addition of an optional, high-deductible health care plan. The last offer from the associations was for a three-year agreement which includes a 2 percent increase to the salary schedule each year and a common sense and affordable health care plan.”

Fischer said offering competitive salaries, benefits and health care is essential because it encourages educators to work and continue working on the Kenai Peninsula.

While the school district also did not comment directly on mediation, Erkeneff cited concern over available funding as one reason for the lack of a tentative agreement.

“Throughout these negotiations which began in early 2015, our hope has been to reduce the rising cost of health care,” Erkeneff said. “The uncertainty of education funding in our state is also a concern that impacts wages and salary.”

Erkeneff said the American Arbitration Association provides a list of arbitrators the school district and associations may choose from if a party decides to request arbitration.

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

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