Archive for Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mediation doesn’t end contract dispute

January 19, 2006

For the first time since declaring an impasse in teacher negotiations, representatives from the Eudora National Education Association and USD 491 met with a mediator last week to try to come to terms on a contract for the current year.

Throughout mediation, both sides remained staunch.

The teachers continued to press for higher wages and more health insurance.

The district kept to what it believed was a fair raise.

"There was no progress toward a settlement. Neither side moved on their position," ENEA president Bob Sailler said.

Board member Joe Pyle, who along with board member Mark Chrislip negotiates for the district, declined comment on the current state of negotiations.

Sailler said the event was the first official mediation he had seen in his 20 years with the district.

During the course of the meeting, both sides met together. Afterward, each met with the mediator individually.

When the mediator failed to bring both sides into an agreement, each was released to the second stage of impasse: fact finding.

During the fact-finding stage, both sides will write to the Kansas Department of Human Resources for five names to choose from for possible fact finders. One by one the groups will mark off names to find an agreed upon individual to hear both sides.

Once both sides choose the individual, each side will present its case to the fact finder during a public meeting.

After hearing both sides, the fact finder will give a non-binding recommendation to both parties of what it sees as the solution.

Following reception of the fact finder's recommendation, both parties will meet once again to come to a solution.

"If an agreement can't be reached -- if neither party can get together -- then the board will be free at that point to simply write a unilateral, or one-sided agreement," said Bruce Lindskog, director of the Prairie Fire UniServ of the Kansas National Education Association.

"The teachers have the option individually to either accept that unilateral agreement or reject it," Lindskog said.

If the individual teacher agrees to the statement, the teacher will be working under the unilateral contract. By returning the contract unsigned, the teacher would be working under the previous year's contract.

The third option would be for the teacher to resign without penalty.

"Clearly the teachers were disappointed that we weren't able to reach an agreement. One of the things that we have at our disposal -- both sides have at their disposal -- in the next few weeks, before we have the fact finder come, we may find some basis of reaching an agreement," Lindskog said.

As the teacher's association and district wait for the list of fact finders to arrive, both parties continue to hold to previous positions.

"If we accept the district's offer as it stands, we would become the lowest paid teachers in Douglas County," Sailler said. "At the same time, the board is pushing for a new stadium. We see a definite connection between the two."

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