School district's offer rejected
Lack of agreement to lead to 29 teacher, staff layoffs
New Berlin — The New Berlin Education Association leadership decided to not accept the school district's final contract offer, made Monday, according to a press release from the New Berlin School District.
The School Board said if the teachers accepted the offer by Friday, the 29 teachers and other staff members who have been laid off for next school year would be recalled.
Reacting to the union leadership's rejection of the final offer, School Board President John Kegel said Tuesday: "We're disappointed, obviously. All the stakeholders in New Berlin will lose."
Many residents of New Berlin and Wisconsin did not get raises this year or last, he said. The teachers are rejecting a 1 percent pay increase, which is a pretty good offer in these times, Kegel said.
"We're disappointed they won't even take it to a vote," Kegel said.
Union representatives could not be reached for comment.
But the NBEA did issue a response to the district's final offer, saying: "NBEA members reject blackmail."
"Please remember that the School Board and district made the decision to put teachers on layoff and make them hostage as part of a negotiation settlement package," the response reads. "This was to put pressure on the NBEA to come to a hasty settlement package, something we have done in the past to our everlasting regret."
Kegel declined to comment.
The teachers' statement goes on to say that the union has not received requested information from the district regarding health insurance costs. The NBEA suspects its members are paying more and the district is getting a $65,000 rebate. The union wants to be sure the insurance premium employees pay for the district's self-funded health plan is not too high and that the funds are being used appropriately, according to a previous statement the NBEA published. The union is carrying out a health insurance investigation by a union insurance actuary.
"As part of this investigation, we have become aware that the district has violated a legal contract to keep all our health monies in a segregated fund. Those monies are currently unaccounted for and make it impossible for our team to accurately analyze insurance costs," the NBEA statement says.
Kegel responded that the situation was inadvertent and has been rectified. He also said that he understands that the union has had the information it asked for since May 1
But the statement says the teachers continue to wait for information and it chastises the district: "Once we receive this information and our actuary reviews it, we will be prepared to make offers that we hope will close the current gap and get us to a voluntary contract that is fair to all parties. We have been waiting for this information for some time and the employer's recent efforts to pressure us through letters to the parents, students and media make us even more suspicious that they have something to hide."
The union statement also alleges that the 0 percent offer for the 2009-10 school year and 1 percent offer for the 2010-11 year is far less than other school districts are offering their teachers.
According to the teachers, raises offered for the 2009-10 and the 2010-11 school years in St. Francis are 2.6 percent and 2.2 percent; in Greenfield , 3.19 percent and 1.6 percent; Wauwatosa, 10.17 percent and 0 percent; West Allis, 3.24 percent and 1.9 percent; Greendale, 3 percent, and not settled.
The district which made its final offer public is offering a 1 percent pay raise for the 2010-11 School year. In addition, the automatic raises that teachers get as they climb the pay scale will continue to be funded.
The teachers are working under the provisions of the 2007-09 contract.
The district also dropped its plan to cut out teacher preparation time and health insurance benefit changes, according to the district.
Also, the district will pay the teachers' contributions to the Wisconsin Retirement System.
The district calculates the total package cost at 4.33 percent including both pay and benefits. Before the state repealed the qualified economic offer law, school districts needed only offer employees packages of 3.8 percent to avoid arbitration.
Arbitration could be in the future. Mediation is slated for mid-July, Kegel said. If that fails, arbitration may follow, he said.
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