Editor's note: Press release provided by the Wissahickon School District Website:
A state-mandated negotiation session on behalf of support staff between the Wissahickon School District and the Wissahickon Education Alliance (WEA) ended on a discouraging note when the union defaulted to its March 26, 2012 proposal - a proposal which predated a fact-finder's report which the union had accepted when it was received in June, 2012.
The evening session consisted of separate meetings with two state mediators, followed by the mediators shuttling back and forth between rooms, because of the union's refusal to meet face-to-face with the School Board's negotiating team.
During the evening, the Board negotiator submitted a document which demonstrated the savings to be realized by the District if it outsourced two types of teaching aide positions - classroom aides and child-specific aides. According to the District's data, the District would save over $1.1 million per year by outsourcing these two positions since costs associated with health benefits, PSERS and other employment related costs would be eliminated. The negotiator also shared a document which showed how the District could save $382,608 in salaries and benefits per year by outsourcing its bus driving services.
"It had been our hope that the sharing of these figures would demonstrate how expensive the WEA contract is and it clearly shows them that compromise is needed on their end to prevent the exploration of other options," explained chief negotiator Jeffrey Sultanik. "The numbers are particularly problematic because the union moved from the fact finder's recommendation of 2.5% per year increases to their original proposal of 4% per year. We remain hopeful that the association will rethink its negotiation position and recognize that they are going down a path that could possibly be putting the job security of its employees at risk by maintaining its positions."
According to Sultanik, other school districts are carefully evaluating outsourcing options for support staff positions, and Wisshickon has the fiscal responsibility to do the same. "By our calculations, the union members who serve as Child Specific Assistants and Special Education Assistants would need to come up with approximately $16,000 per member in concessions to convince us that outsourcing is not a financially sound option for the District."
Instead of presenting concessions, the WEA indicated that its March 26, 2012 proposal was back in play - a proposal which was nullified by its acceptance of the fact-finders proposal. According to Sultanik, this action is grounds for the filing of an unfair labor practice.
With no contract settlement in sight, talks will resume on December 6, 2012.
As negotiations continue, updates will be posted by the District at www.wsdweb.org