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:
• 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
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.”