NESHAMINY >> Less than a week after the 600-member Neshaminy Federation of Teachers (NFT) approved a state fact-finder’s report, the school board did the same in an effort to end the contract negotiations impasse.
At the Oct. 5 meeting, the board voted 6-0 to accept the state fact-finder’s recommendations issued to both sides Sept. 26.
As a result, a tentative three-year deal is now in place with minimal pay raises and a very slight increase in health care premiums.
Voting for the report were: President Scott Congdon along with board members Irene Boyle, Robert Sanna, Marty Sullivan, Ron Rudy and Mike Morris.
Two board members abstained: Bob Feather and Tina Hollenbach.
Steve Pirritano did not attend the meeting.
On Sept. 29, the NFT rank-and-file had overwhelmingly approved the recommendations and urged to the school board to do the same.
With both sides now in agreement, there will be no more face-to-face negotiations and the fact-finder’s recommendations must now be put into a contract format that will have to be approved by both parties.
The three-year pact will be retroactive to July 1 and ends June 30, 2019.
“We are pleased the School Board has accepted the fact-finder’s recommendations which moves us closer to reaching a fair and equitable contract,” said NFT president Tara Huber who was unable to attend the Wednesday night board meeting.
The report was issued by hearing examiner Thomas Leonard, who was appointed by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB).
It contains recommendations on resolving the outstanding issues in the current contract negotiation stalemate.
Under PLRB rules, the report cannot be publicly released until it’s either accept or rejected by both sides.
The morning following the school board’s vote, a two-page summary was posted on Neshaminy’s website at: www.neshaminy.org
The report recommends that in the current 2016-17 school year, union members receive a 0.25-percent pay raise in addition to any wage increase relating to so-called ‘step movement,’ which is advancing to either vertically or horizontally to new positions depending on earned graduate education credits.
In the second year of the contract, which is the 2017-18 school year, NFT members will receive a half-percent wage hike plus step movement.
And in year three, 2018-19, there is no pay raise, only step movement salary increases.
The fact finder also recommended that union members pay 17 percent of health care premiums in the second year of the pact, and 18 percent in year three.
Currently, NFT members pay for 16-percent of their medical premiums.
Those school district employees who are paid on an hourly rate will also receive a slight pay increase.
In the first year of the contact, it is a 1.7, percent raise, with no wage hike in the second year.
In the 2018-19 school year, hourly workers will receive another 1.7-percent raise.
The recommendations also include tuition reimbursement for NFT members enrolled in continuing education.
The rate will increase $10 each year, so that the maximum reimbursement for graduate credits for 2016-2017 will be $300, in 2017-2018 it will be $310 and rise to $320 in the final year of the contract.
There are a number of other recommendations pertaining to contract language, including sick and personal days, as well as increasing the time union members have to file a grievance.
Currently, a grievance must be filed within 20 working days. That will now be changed to 30 calendar days.
The NFT, which represents teachers, librarians, guidance counselors and other professional support staff, have been operating under the terms of the old one-year contract which had expired June 30, 2016.
That one-year pact was reached in July 2015 as a stop-gap measure to bridge the previous three-year deal, which had expired just several weeks earlier, and was meant to give both sides time to negotiate a new, longer collective bargaining agreement.
The one-year extension had held the line on salaries, as well as had frozen health-care contributions at 16-percent that members pay towards premiums.
Under the one-year contract extension, teachers’ starting salaries had remained at $44,469 with maximum pay capped at $107,469 for teachers with 11-years’ experience.
Currently, teachers’ pay averages around $92,000.
Several years ago, Neshaminy had been plagued with long-term union unrest and several brief walkouts because no new contract had been in place.
The NFT had been working under an old agreement from June 2008 until a new three-year pact was signed in June 2013 and which was retroactive to July 1, 2012.
During that five-year period without a new contract, negotiations were mostly acrimonious, with many school board meetings descending into a hotbed of dissension which pitted board members and residents against the teachers' union.
That's something that both the school board and union had wanted to avoid this time around.
“This is an excellent opportunity for labor peace and stability in our District,” NFT president Huber noted after the union’s vote on the fact-finder's recommendations.