October 23, 2017

Status of Support Staff Negotiations


After several months of negotiations, followed by mediation and finally a fact finding process, the School Board has been unable to reach an agreement with the support staff union on the terms of their new contract.   Although the Parties reached agreement on almost all items, the sticking point is the annual wage increases the support staff will receive in the contract. 

The Board proposed a 2.2% increase for the 2015-16 school year, a 2.5% increase for the 2016-17 school year, and a 2.5% increase for the 2017-18 school year.   The union is unwilling to settle for anything less than what was recommended by the Fact Finder: a 3.0% increase for the 2015-16 school year, a 3.15% increase for the 2016-17 school year, and a 3.15% increase for the 2017-18 school year. 

The School Board understands that that our employees are the District’s most important assets.  We recognize the importance of paying our employees a competitive wage so we can attract and retain the best.  Finally, we acknowledge that the union’s final demands are a significant decrease from the 4% wage increases the Union demanded at Fact Finding.

Unfortunately, reasonableness and fairness are not the issue.  The increases offered by the School Board are the maximum amount that the School District can pay.  There is no money in the 2015 – 16 budget to pay the higher pay increase demanded by the union. 

The School Board’s 2015 – 16 budget did not pass the first time it was voted on by the Taxpayers.  The budget passed at the floor meeting because taxpayers accepted the School Board’s claim that there was no fat in the budget.  If the budget were cut any further there would have to be reductions in programs.  That was the truth then and is still the case now.

The Taxpayers message was loud and clear.  The Citizens of Hartford are willing to sacrifice to preserve the programs in the schools but the School Board has to control costs.  Given that mandate, the School Board has no choice but to hold the line. 

In holding the line on costs we are not going to play favorites.  Each of the unions representing the District’s employees is being asked to live within the same budget.  The administrators union has agreed to do so.  The support staff has not.  We are still in discussions with the teacher’s union. 

Finally, a word on what’s next.  We are now in a 30-day cooling-off period in which no actions can be taken by either side.  We are willing to meet with leadership of the support staff union during this period of time.  If, at the end of the 30-day cooling off period, the Parties are unable to reach agreement on the final issues the School Board has the option of imposing a contract and the union has the option of calling a strike.  We all hope that it will not come to that.

The School Board has posted the Fact Finder’s Report on its website (www.hsdvt.com).