Community Blog: The EDge

Meridian union calls negotiations impasse ‘unnecessary and hostile’

Labor negotiations may be over in Meridian.

But the debate isn’t.

On Monday evening — hours after the Meridian School District put an end to 2013-14 negotiations, declaring an impasse — the head of the local teachers’ called the move a “heavy-handed power play.”

“There was no indication given that the district would refuse to bargain, and the Meridian Education Association was blindsided by this unnecessary and hostile action,” MEA President Luke Franklin said in a statement. “The district did not even provide the courtesy of informing us of this decision — further evidence of their disdain for collaboration.”

By declaring an impasse, a school district can issue teacher contracts based on its last best offer. Citing written opinions from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office, Meridian declared an impasse Monday. And on the first day of the 2013-14 budget year, the state’s largest school district issued contracts that include a $1,000 bonus for veteran teachers who are maxed out on the salary schedule, and some pay raises tied to work experience and credits earned.

All districts were required to issue contracts Monday, with or without a master agreement. But Meridian’s move to declare an impasse came after a two-hour Friday evening bargaining session that saw the two sides narrow their differences from $12 million to about $4 million.

“We had certainly anticipated ongoing negotiations,” Franklin said.

Negotiations will continue in Nampa and other school districts — where administrators and unions still haven’t reached terms, but district officials haven’t yet declared an impasse.

For more about the Meridian impasse, and a link to the district’s statement Monday, here’s a link to my previous blog post.

And here is Franklin’s statement, in full.

We are surprised and disappointed by the districts announcement today they have unilaterally declared an impasse and discontinued good faith negotiations with the dedicated teachers in Meridian. There was no indication given that the district would refuse to bargain, and the Meridian Education Association was blindsided by this unnecessary and hostile action. The district did not even provide the courtesy of informing us of this decision  further evidence of their disdain for collaboration.

The district has misinterpreted or misconstrued legal opinions to suit its own purposes, and has clearly overstepped its authority. Ceasing good faith negotiations and imposing terms is not the prerogative of either party in a collective bargaining process. Given the fact that the Meridian Education Association made significant concessions as recently as Friday and that there are proposals still on the table, we had certainly anticipated ongoing negotiations.

This heavyhanded power play on the part of the district is disrespectful to the teachers and students of Meridian. We hope that the district will re-consider this strategy and return to the bargaining table.

 

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

Tagged with: ,
Posted in The EDge