The Herald Bulletin

January 7, 2014

ACS board wants contract discussion

Meeting to discuss informal talks strategy

By Ken de la Bastide The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON – The Anderson Community Schools board plans to discuss a strategy for possible informal collective bargaining with the teachers union during an upcoming executive session.

The ACS board has scheduled the executive session for Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

Jean Chaille, president of the school board, said the meeting is to look at some ideas and strategy for collective bargaining with the Anderson Federation of Teachers.

“There are areas we want to have informal discussions with the AFT present,” Chaille said.

The AFT and ACS signed a contract in 2011 that runs through 2018 with no provision for a salary increase for union members.

However, a change in state law by the Indiana General Assembly limits collective bargaining talks to salaries and employee benefits.

Any informal talks are expected to focus on seniority and teacher discipline.

Tom Fortner, president of the AFT, said the school board can’t reopen the contract without the approval of the union.

He said a concern for the union is that if the contract talks are reopened, not on an informal basis, the AFT could lose the provisions included in the contract covering work hours, seniority and incremental salary increases based on years of employment.

The 150-page contract covers teacher discipline, class sizes, the school year’s calendar, working conditions and dress code.

“We can’t go to the bargaining table,” Fortner said. “We would probably lose our entire contract because of the new state law.”

Fortner said the AFT would only negotiate contract provisions with the school board if a judge issues a declaratory statement that the entire contract would not become null and void because of the new state law.

“If we could get to the table, we would want to talk about wages and benefits,” he said. “Not the other provisions in the contract.”

Fortner said the ACS board has asked numerous times to reopen the contract and has always been denied by the AFT.

“There are certain reopeners built into the contract,” he said. “We don’t want to lose the seniority and step-ups in salary.”

Chaille said the contract provides an annual increase in pay for union members for the first 19 years of employment.

“At some point we want to return to the bargaining table,” she said.

Chaille said administrators recently received pay increases based on performance, which is not included in the union contract.

Rick Muir, president of the Indiana Federation of Teachers, told The Herald Bulletin in November that teachers aren’t afraid of accountability.

“We welcome it,” he said. “We’re for improvement. You wouldn’t be in this field if you didn’t believe that. But you’ve got to give teachers all the help they need.”

Follow Ken de la Bastide @KendelaBastide on Twitter, or call 640-4863.