Nearly Year of Negotiations, Still No Deal for SVSD Secretaries; District Gives Contract Update, which Union Says not Fully Accurate

The Snoqualmie Valley School District continues contract negotiations with its secretaries union (SVASA) – talks which have been happening since early May 2013.

On March 18, 2014, in an email-blast to all parents, SVSD gave an update on the negotiations, which since the fall have had the direct assistance of a mediator – requested by the secretaries union.

The district said it recently made the union two proposals:

Two-year contract option with a 2% raise each year (2-2):

• 2013-14: 2% raise
• 2014-15: 2% raise

Four-year contract option (2-2-2-2):
• 2013-14: 2% raise
• 2014-15: 2% raise
• 2015-16: 2% raise, with partial *HCA subsidy in year 3
• 2016-17: 2% raise, with increased *HCA subsidy in year 4
(*HCA is a subsidy that the state requires school employees to pay, for state retiree medical costs.)

The district also stated for both contract proposals it offered to re-write a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to study an issue of utmost importance to secretaries: health room coverage at times when a school nurse is not present.

Secretaries Union Give Additional Information to District Communication

According to Karen Seiser, SVASA President, student safety is one of the union’s top concerns, saying secretaries are “the front line” when it comes to the

SVSAU Representative, Karen Seiser, addresses school board on 1/9/2014

SVSAU President, Karen Seiser, addressed school board on 1/9/2014

health and safety of students at SVSD schools.  Nurses are only staffed part-time and often times secretaries assume health room responsibilities. Seiser said the union previously requested additional staffing for nurse rooms, going on to say that health room coverage is something members are not willing to compromise on.

Seiser said she felt information in the March 18th district email regarding the negotiations was not completely accurate, possibly having a negative slant toward union members, and wanted to provide additional details about the ongoing negotiations.

Some Issues Seiser Offered Clarification on:

  • The contract offers were presented as “all or nothing” to the union, meaning members would have to accept all terms of the proposals. Seiser explained some parts might be acceptable (like the salary portion), but other items (like health room memorandum) would not be acceptable to union members.
  • The Memorandum of Understanding regarding health room coverage didn’t fully address big concerns union members have regarding student health and safety. Additionally, Seiser said the most recent contract proposals only agreed to “study the [health room] issue,” not add additional support staffing. She said, “This is a significant reduction in the level of commitment the district indicated in the fall.”  Seiser said this health room coverage issue is something members do not want to compromise on.
  • SVASA did ask for a 4% yearly raise during negotiations. Secretaries, though, were offered a 2% per year raise, similar to the teacher’s union contract.  Seiser explained teachers also receive 100% of the HCA subsidy while secretaries are being offered a partial HCA subsidy – and only if they agree to the 4-year contract.  Also a sticking point, teachers receive their 2% raise and a cost of living raise (COLA) if the state provides one. Secretaries were offered the 2% raise or the COLA, not both.   [She reiterated that even if salary was something the union could compromise on, because the offers were all or nothing, the union could not accept due to the health room memorandum component of the contract.]
  • It was stated in district the communication that the union declined to schedule additional mediation sessions.  SVASA says they did not decline more mediation, but asked to have a new  PERC (Public Employees Relations Commission) mediator assigned for future bargaining “in order to pursue a more interest-based bargaining process… and sit in the same room with the district team.” More talks cannot be scheduled until a new mediator is assigned, which has not happened yet.

Both sides say they are committed to continuing negotiations and reaching a settlement.  The secretaries union says members have been without a cost of living raise in six years, while simultaneously taking on rising health care costs and bigger workloads. But their number one issue is student health and safety and the ongoing health room coverage issue.

The district points some blame at the state, saying years of education spending cuts and the current legislature’s decision not to support more compensation for school employees puts it in a very difficult position.  SVSD says it’s “committed to the negotiations process and the work involved to achieve a mutually acceptable solution that addresses our secretaries’ priorities while maintaining the fiscal health of our school district.”

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Chris Lodahl says

    What would Costco’s Board and CEO do …………….. Oh take care of business and their employees.

    Once again poor leadership by the superintendent and school board to resolve legitimate issues. Instead of resolving the nurse coverage issue – the district leaders desire to “study” the issue to death, while our children have less than adequate supervision by a licensed nurse. If you were a secretary being paid peanuts with the responsibility to make decisions that a licensed nurse would and something went horribly wrong (like medicine) – who would get thrown under the bus – the secretary or the leaders?
    District leaders feel Secretaries and Classified employees are second class workers who do not deserve the state pass through cost of living or COLA like teachers. That does not seem right – so why?? Oh, the District makes money by keeping the COLA – was that the intent of the state legislature when they approve COLA’s?? Seems to me the state did their part on the COLA and the District should do their part on salary alignment. I did not see the superintendent take a pay cut from his $170,000 a year salary during the recession. Yet these workers received no raises; some had hours reduced and others were laid off.
    Once again the District leaders feel Secretaries and Classified employees are second class and can continue to pay the HCA subsidy for their medical insurance in full or only partially if the agree to four year contract, yet the District pays the teachers HCA in full.
    Then we get down to “interest based bargaining” — something the district leaders will not take their heads out of the sand to embrace. This approach is the future — as it is not weighted for the union or the District. A factual decision making and implementing strategy to resolve issues and prevent mediation.
    The Snoqualmie Valley School District has a 56 million dollar budget to which these requests are pennies. Maybe the voters should ask Microsoft or Costco to step in and run our school district. Labor unrest with the three unions has been a continual problem and does not speak well of our District leaders.

  2. I agree 100% with the comments left by Mr. Lodal. Parents speak up, lets hear your voices. Go to school board meetings, make yourself heard. If you go to your childs school who do you see first. You enter the office and speak to the secretary’s who are working at that school. As a former school bus driver I have interacted with the secretary’s at the schools. They have helped with student management issues. They have come to my bus when a principle was not available. They have helped with belongings left on buses in the morning. I would like to say I was very sad when I heard Tina was leaving OES. She was amazing. I really think she knew every child’s name in that school. Snoqualmie School District you lost a very, very good employee.
    Parents if you received a call from your childs school that he or she has a injury, honestly who would you like to be talking to, a secretary who has no medical schooling, or a school nurse. I myself would want a school nurse to be calling me. Speak out, Let the dstrict know how important this issue is for the secretary’s. They do not want or need to be making a medical call on your child.
    Maybe ask the district how many new jobs they have created in the district office since Mr. Aune was hired .We are not a Bellevue or Lake Washington School District. We are Snoqualmie and we are not as large as those other school districts. For the safety of your children every school should be staffed with a nurse. If I am not mistaken there is a nurse at the district office for at least part of the day. I may be wrong, but when I drove a bus she was there a lot. Help the secrtary’s please. Spend money where t needs to be spent.

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