Monday, July 30, 2012

NFT's Failure to Compromise on Work Day Stalls Talks

Meeting #45, Neshaminy Contract Talks:

The NFT lead negotiator Tom Jennings was not present for the session, marking the fourth meeting out of the last five that he has not been in attendance.  His absence creates a hindrance to the negotiation process. 

Both sides met face to face for 20 minutes, and then met in separate rooms while the mediators shuttled back and forth.

The Board provided its latest offer in writing to the NFT, again proposing to agree as part of a contract to the twelve items that were part of the recent arbitrator's decision, and signed off by the NSD Board attorney, Chuck Sweet and the NFT attorney, Tom Jennings.

The point of contention which prevents progress is on one item; the language surrounding the length of the work day. The board proposed an 8 hour work day; the NFT wants to keep the current 7 hour work day. The arbitrator proposed a compromise of a 7 ½ hour work day.

In an effort to further negotiations, the Board agreed with the arbitrator for a 7 ½ hour work day. The NFT however refused to compromise. This issue remains unsettled, and prevents agreement on the list of twelve items.

The most distressing thing about this evening’s meeting is the NFT’s unwillingness to even try to negotiate. It’s like they just mailed it in tonight.

Perhaps this being done as a way of bettering their position as they seek a judge’s intervention, which is unfortunate because such a strategy helps neither side and is doomed to failure.

Despite all this, the NFT continues to seek an unaffordable contract that will hurl the district well beyond the financial limits of Act 1, which will in turn force the Board to slash student programs. Such an outcome violates this Board’s guiding principle of erring on the side of our kids, and therefore is not an option for us.

Once again the Board asked for a negotiation session on 9/6/2012. The NFT refused to respond to the mediator this evening, but said it would respond to the mediator in writing this week. 

Meeting #46 is scheduled for Wednesday, 8/8/2012.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Progress in Talks

NFT Lead Negotiator Tom Jennings was in attendance but NFT President Louise Boyd was not at the table.

The Board met face-to-face across the table from the NFT for about 40 minutes.

There is no progress to report at this time. The board proposed one additional negotiation date for September 6th and the NFT refused to agree, asking the board to put the request in writing to their attorney.  

The next meeting is July 30th at 6:00pm.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

NFT Ignores "Gut" Issues, Says NO to Souderton Type CBA

Meeting #43 did not begin until 7:00pm. At that time the arbitrator provided the board a written proposal from the NFT, which is essentially the same as their last offer.  The board estimates the cost of the NFT proposal to be $21,414,105.68, and did not address any of the previously communicated “gut” issues.  While the NFT lead negotiator Tom Jennings was in the building, the NFT chose to have their proposal delivered by the mediator. The two sides did not meet face to face.

The board asked the NFT for a response as promised on the Souderton Teacher Contract.  NFT responded by saying our answer is “no” to the Souderton Contract and to reference their written proposal.

The board feels it’s unfortunate that the NFT is unwilling to move and bargain to get a contract that is fair & affordable for the students &  taxpayers of Neshaminy School District.

Next scheduled bargaining session is Thursday July 26, 2012.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Common Sense Fails in yet Another Arbitration Award

Q: When is a “past practice” not considered a past practice?
A: When it involves the NFT and an Arbitrator.

For as long as anyone can remember, elementary music teachers participated in up to two evening choral concerts each year with their students. The District believed participation was an expectation of the teachers’ jobs especially since music teachers were given time during their work day to prepare students for these concerts.

During the 2010-2011 school year, in the midst of a NFT-mandated Work-to-Contract (WTC) action, one such music teacher advised Administration that she would not attend her school’s evening concert. Administration said that she was required to do so, and as a result the Union filed a grievance, saying that attendance was not mandatory because that would interfere with the right to "work to the contract." The NFT also insisted that if attendance is required that there must be additional compensation for teachers.

It should come as no surprise that the Arbitrator found in favor of the Union, even though he admitted he “recognized that the teachers herein spend considerable time preparing the students for the evening concerts and that it makes little sense those same teachers could then unilaterally decide to forgo the concert.” Yet he concluded that the teachers were not obligated to attend evening concerts unless they are paid an agreed upon stipend.

The District is appalled at the result of this arbitration decision, which along with several other recent awards are completely one-sided in favor of the NFT. Such union-centric decisions make it extremely difficult to put kids first, which remains our guiding principle.

Now more than ever, the Board is convinced that we must stay the course at the bargaining table in order to ensure that the District’s needs are met. We cannot rely upon arbitrators to help us with common sense decisions, so we will help ourselves by holding firm in negotiations and seeking the changes that are essential for the future of Neshaminy.

Click here to read the Arbitrator's award.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Board Identifies "Gut" Issues

Meeting #42 took place without NFT Chief Negotiator, Tom Jennings, who did not attend for the 3rd consecutive bargaining session.  The NFT offered no explanation as to Mr. Jennings' absence.

The NFT, through the mediator, requested negotiations be held every day in the month of August, including Saturdays and Sundays, starting at 10:00am. The board respectfully rejected the proposed meeting dates stating that board members are volunteers and receive no compensation, and they must work during the day to support their families.

The board did request at the July 5th session to meet on 8/8, 8/15, 8/29 and 8/30. These dates were agreed to by both parties, with starting times of 6:00 pm.

The board presented a list of 15 “gut“ issues, along with the board’s bottom line with respect to each issue.  Among these issues were retirement incentives, 15% healthcare contributions, and equal say.

The board indicated to the mediator with unmistakable emphasis that they would not move beyond the bottom line on any of the issues as expressed.

The two parties did not meet face to face and the mediator shuttled back and forth between the meeting rooms.

The board had previously presented the concept of using the Souderton School District’s recently settled teachers' contract as a model for consideration. Prior to tonight’s meeting the board forwarded an actual copy of the Souderton contract to the NFT. After lengthy consideration the NFT advised the board, through the mediator, that they were not prepared to respond tonight to either the “gut” issues or the Souderton contract. The NFT promised to do so at the July 18th meeting.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Board Suggests Souderton CBA as a Path Forward

During last week's negotiation session, we told the NFT that the Board would like to base our new collective bargaining agreement with the teacher's union after one of the recently settled contracts from the surrounding districts.

After we reviewed several different CBA's for new ideas, and considering the PSSA test score success of those districts, the Board chose the Souderton school district agreement to be our model going forward.

If we have learned anything from the past 4 years, it's that our relationship with the teachers needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. So it only logical that we start with a new contract. The Souderton agreement allows both sides to adopt working guidelines that make sense.

Rather than renegotiating a CBA that doesn't work, we invite the NFT to join us in accepting one that will. The Souderton contract isn't perfect and it will require concessions by both sides.

The Board is committed to finding a new path forward, and we hope that the NFT will do the same beginning with Tuesday's talks.

SASD - SAEA Collective Bargaining Agreement 2012-2017 FINAL

Equal Voice Trumps Final Say

Earlier this year, the NFT filed a grievance (see attached) against the district, more specifically against NHS principal Rob McGee, over what the union claimed was a violation of our CBA.

At the heart of the matter was a March 2011 in-service day which Dr. McGee wanted to devote to state-mandated PSSA proctor training for our certified staff. Given our district’s precipitous drop in scores over the years, I don’t think I need to emphasize to you the importance of the training Dr. McGee wanted to provide.

Despite the need for training, the union officials at the high school wanted to call upon a past practice of using this particular in-service day for other purposes since they believed Dr. McGee didn’t give them adequate notice that he wanted to use this day for PSSA proctor training. It is important to note that all the other NSD buildings were able to hold their PSSA proctor sessions, which took all of 45 minutes, during that in-service day. It was only the high school union reps who refused to accommodate their principal's training schedule.

After hearing the NFT’s position, Dr. McGee decided that the training was absolutely essential and therefore decided that was how the in-service day was to be used. The NFT disagreed and filed a grievance saying that McGee failed in allowing the union an equal voice in the matter.

As you will see from page 4 testimony of former NFT official Kevin Knowles, the “equal voice” language was put into the CBA to ensure that “neither side would have veto power.”

While all of us agree that collaboration is important to the success of any organization, the role of authority and decision-making ability are equally essential. A ship isn’t run by committee; it has but one captain. Just like a ship, each school building has a principal who must be responsible for the day-to-day operations of that facility. If the principal doesn’t have ultimate authority in their building, how can we possibly hold them accountable for what goes on inside?

The NFT doesn’t care about that, and apparently neither did the arbitrator who found in favor of the NFT by stating on page 19 that Dr. McGee simply “pulled rank” rather than engage in a “marketplace of ideas” collaboration with the NFT.

The way I interpret this decision is that the district’s right to “final say” is trumped by the NFT’s equal voice. I cannot imagine running a company this way, and I suspect this has much to do with why our district continues to struggle.

This ruling highlights why we can never allow the equal voice doctrine to find its way into a future CBA. More often than not, equal voice is used to paralyze our administrators while allowing the NFT to protect the status quo.

Arbitrator Award in Service Day 05232012

We will continue to keep the public advised of arbitration rulings in the future.
Ritchie Webb

Thursday, July 5, 2012

After NFT resubmits old offer, Webb suggests Souderton CBA

Meeting # 41 began at 6:15pm

Tom Jennings, the NFT chief negotiator, was not present for the second straight meeting.  Both sides met face to face for approximately  20 minutes before adjourning to separate rooms. The NFT presented their new proposal which was identical to their November 1, 2011 proposal which includes 80% retro pay, retirement perks/incentives, and a healthcare contribution rate equal to 8% of the current premium.  

Disappointed by the absence of any changes in their latest offer, Board President Ritchie Webb asked the NFT, via the mediator, to consider the recently settled Souderton Teacher's contract in its entirety.  Webb noted that Souderton is an excellent district which consistently ranks among the top scores in the state.  The NFT did not indicate if they would consider Mr. Webb's request however they did ask for a copy of the Souderton contract.

The Board Negotiation Team requested four additional negotiation dates in the month of August. After some discussion, the specific dates offered by the Board were August 8, 15, 29 and 30.  This is in addition to the four meeting dates already scheduled for July (July 10, 18, 26, 30).

The NFT will respond as to the offered dates at the next bargaining session on July 10, 2012.