By Lloyd Jones
MADISON — School employees here have filed an unfair labor practice complaint after the principal allegedly "interrogated them regarding a flyer" on the eve of the holiday recess last month. The teachers' union and Madison School Board's negotiating team are currently at an impasse on negotiations for a 2014-15 contract.
The Madison Education Association issued a press release Monday afternoon.
"Today, the Madison Education Association, NEA-NH filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the Madison School District," the release states. "The union charges that the district intimidated and coerced union negotiators one day before the holiday break. During instructional time on Friday, December 20, 2013, principal Brian Ernest summoned union president/negotiator Debra Parsons and vice president/negotiator Tracey Holmes to his office. The principal had a copy of a union flyer supporting a contract settlement.
"The principal called the teachers away from their teaching duties demanding to know who copied the flyer and where it had been copied," the release states. "He explained that school board members were unhappy with the flyer and they wanted information about it. The association states that the principal's action created a climate of fear and intimidation, discouraging employees from voicing their opinions or supporting their negotiators. New Hampshire's public employee collective bargaining law allows employees to associate freely and without intimidation."
"The tone of negotiations was very friendly this year, but we didn't get anywhere," said Parsons. "With a negotiating deadline of January 14, we needed to let the community know what was happening. I'm really disappointed the district responded the way it did."
SAU 13 Superintendent Louis Goscinski confirmed Tuesday that the sides were at impasse.
The Madison School Board was scheduled to meet Tuesday night.
"Deb Parsons wants to talk to the board in public session and the board will state where it is at this point," Goscinski said. With the sides at impasse, they can speak about the parameters of deals they'd like to reach. "The board has a figure in mind and the union has a figure in mind. The public will be made aware of the two proposals."
Goscinski did not envision a resolution at Tuesday's meeting, saying the negotiating teams would need to get back to the table and resume talks.
"They essentially have one week to get together and try to reach an agreement," he said.
The flyer in question states, "Madison school employees need your help!" It states that the two sides are at an impasse without an agreement and it has been two years since a contract has been ratified and if no deal is reached by Jan. 14, "employees may work without a contract for a second year."
The flyer has 3 cents as a key figure on it, outlining the difference between the bargaining sides.
"The employees' proposal would increase the tax rate by 12 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value," it states. "The board's proposal would cost 9 cents per thousand ($24 for a $200,000 home versus $18/year). The employee proposal is fair."
Items in the proposed contract are also outlined on the flyer.
• Two percent salary increases for most experienced educators (larger increases for those receiving step promotions.
• Cost Of Living Allowances (COLA) for hourly employees.
• Employees would pay a larger share of medicine insurance. Now 89 percent district payment: 11 percent employee contribution. By 2016-17, it would shift to 85 percent district payment: 15 percent employee contributes.
• Administration is receiving between 2.5 to 4 percent raise and will contribute 13 percent to insurance.
"Teachers in neighboring communities earn significantly more per year," states the flyer. "Other Madison employees pay a smaller share of their insurance."
The flyer again outlines the deadline of Jan. 14 for a deal to be reached.
"Please contact your school board members and ask them to accept the employees' proposal," the flyer states, and then lists the school board members by first name only along with their phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
After failing to reach agreement on a contract last year, Madison teachers are currently working under a contract that expired on July 1. If no agreement is reached by Jan. 14, they will likely work for a second consecutive year under an expired contract.
"Union negotiators met with school board negotiators Wendy Grzeik and Bruce Brooks several times before impasse was declared on October 1," according to the union's press release. "The parties attended a day-long mediation session on November 7, but did not reach an agreement. The parties met again on December 16.
"Educators do not want to pay a larger share of insurance costs than other Madison public employees," the release continued. "The union is seeking 2 percent raises for the most experienced educators. The school board has approved raises of 2 to 4 percent for district managers."