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New contract – SFSD reaches agreement with non-teacher union

By Stephen Floyd

Non-teacher employees have reached an agreement with the Silver Falls School District (SFSD) after four months of negotiations that largely centered on compensation, discipline and grievance procedures.

On July 28, the district reached a tentative agreement with the Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA) for a three-year contract that would retroactively go into effect July 1.

The contract must now be ratified by the union, which expects to vote after the start of the school year to ensure the greatest number of union members are available. If passed, the SFSD Board would then vote on the contract during a regular meeting, potentially on Sept. 11.

During the board’s regular meeting Aug. 14, Superintendent Scott Drue said the timely resolution of negotiations was in large part due to open and clear communication between parties. He said, while some conversations were “very spirited,” he felt both sides respected each other and said OSEA was “an absolute pleasure to work with.”

Board Member Owen von Flue, who served on the district’s bargaining team, also described negotiations as a positive experience that grew his confidence in the district’s administration and workers.

“It was a really great experience and left me just really heartened with our team and our employees,” he said.

This comes after contentious negotiations with OSEA in 2020 over retirement benefits that resulted in a regulatory complaint filed against the district for alleged stonewall tactics. The Oregon Employment Relations Board found the district negotiated in bad faith, though one board member said the district’s bargaining position should be viewed in light of the pandemic and wildfires that year.

These disasters helped inform some of the proposed new contract language related to employees being reassigned job duties or being asked to work during a school closure.

If an employee were assigned the task of a higher-paying job classification, they would receive a temporary pay increase based on the length of their assignment and classification of the work. If employees were called into work on-site during a school closure, they would be paid time-and-a-half.

Additionally, if employees worked between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. they would receive $1 more per hour, up from the current rate of $0.65.

The proposed contract also includes raises this year based on job classifications. Employees at the start of the pay scale would receive $1.25 more per hour, mid-level employees $1 more per hour, and those at the top of the pay scale would receive a 4 percent raise.

During the 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years, all employees would receive a 3.25 percent cost of living adjustment each year.

The proposed contract also simplified grievance procedures, eliminating an appeals process that allowed the school board to reconsider disciplinary decisions made by administrators. During negotiations, the district had argued this provision was unnecessary because state law already provides a process for employees to appeal unlawful or incorrect decisions. 

The proposal also incorporated a new state law that prevents the firing or discipline of non-teacher employees without just cause. The new contract reflects this change and allows a union representative to attend all disciplinary or investigatory meetings, and allows employees to be placed on paid leave if under investigation.

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