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Bargaining – Non-teacher employees at the table

By Stephen Floyd

Bargaining with non-teacher employees in the Silver Falls School District is nearing its third month, well before a 150-day official deadline. The previous contract expired July 1.

SFSD began negotiating with the Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA) May 18. As of press time, slightly more than half of outstanding articles were resolved.

Remaining issues include salaries, discipline, work hours and vacation policy. Parties are split on whether or not the district can afford the concessions the union is seeking, and how narrowly the contract should define the role of management.

Union leaders have initiated a public information campaign they hope will speed up negotiations. Fliers were distributed on cars during the July 10 regular meeting of the SFSD board. At the July 19 bargaining session, district negotiators said this approach felt combative and misleading. Union negotiators said it was the start of a planned campaign to hold the district accountable.

In regard to salaries, the district has proposed removing percentage-based cost of living adjustments, instead using a dollar amount of between $1.25 and $0.50 per hour. The union proposed $5 per hour increase for all employees. Parties had yet to change these positions as of press time.

The district argues it cannot afford to pay too much because it is still recovering from financial losses of the COVID-19 pandemic and must restore its end-of-year balance. The union agreed its proposal was “a big ask” but said the district has been falling behind in pay compared to cost of living over the last 20 years and the proposal helps wages catch up.

Parties are also split over employee discipline.

The union has requested a policy of allowing workers who file a grievance against disciplinary action to continue working until the issue is resolved. If a non-teacher employee misses work while a grievance is filed, and it is resolved in their favor, back-pay does not make up for the wages lost, union officials say. The district said it is the responsibility of administrators to take disciplinary action, and an appeal is about process rather than guilt or innocence.

On the issue of employee hours, the parties are discussing how a worker’s time may be reduced. The district says some circumstances require a reduction, such as when enrollment drops unexpectedly at a school and food services has fewer hours to work with. The union has requested that the employee and union be informed before such changes happen, and that an employee who has their hours reduced retain their prior classification for the calculation of benefits.

The next bargaining session was scheduled for July 28, after Our Town press time. Sessions are open to the public. Videos of the meetings are loaded to the district’s YouTube page.

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