Education

Burlington School Board declares contract talks impasse

BURLINGTON — The Board of School Commissioners has declared an impasse in its contract negotiations with the Burlington Education Association, the union representing teachers in the district.

Declaring an impasse will allow the two sides to bring in a mediator and fact finder to help broker a new contract. The school board and the union reached a one-year contract last October only after mediation.

The current contract ends in July.

“The Board is very sensitive to the community’s desire that we complete negotiations before school starts in late August. To do this, we need mediation to begin as soon as possible in order to reach a quality agreement,” said Stephanie Seguino, school board vice chair, in a statement Friday announcing the impasse.

Union President Fran Brock said Friday that the impasse is not unexpected and the teachers bargaining unit looks forward to the mediation process. In the meantime, both sides said they hope to keep negotiating.

School Board Chair Mark Porter said the crux of negotiations surround the teachers’ request for salary increases of almost 7.7 percent. Of that, 5.7 percent would go directly toward salary, and 2 percent would go to retirement benefits, according to Porter.

The board is offering a half of one percent salary increase for the upcoming contract, Porter said in the statement.

Brock declined to confirm those numbers. She said she felt the board was trying to bait her and the union to negotiate through the press. She added: “people become too focused on the number and it becomes very myopic.”

“We need and want a contract that will attract and retain the teachers we need to provide the quality education to the children of Burlington,” Brock said.

Porter said providing the salary increase the teachers want, along with other proposals from the union, would require serious cuts to programs, or a 9 percent tax increase.

Brock said she appreciates concerns over property taxes increasing, but she said the issue that should be addressed through changes to state policy, not at the district level — and not on the backs of Burlington teachers.

As Vermont’s largest city, Burlington has special education, English language learning and social service costs that exceed other districts. However, the state restrictions governing how those programs can be paid for are the same for Burlington as smaller districts.

“If you look at school districts across the state, we have a much more diverse population, and the requirement to meet the needs of such a socio-economically mixed community is different from what many of the other districts have,” Brock said.

The fact finding and mediation process could begin as early as April.

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  • As in Vegas, the house always wins. In this case the house is the union. Why waste time and money pretending the school board won’t cave into every union concession?

    • Jamie Carter

      Actually, the board didn’t cave on the current contract. The union threatened to sue, threatened to strike and in general threw a tantrum befitting a toddler and board held firm. As soon as the union realized the board was serious, they dropped it all and settled.

      It was nice to see a board finally take a stand. Now if only they do it again and others start to follow suit…

    • joe hill

      The house always wins… only it’s not the working man and woman Ken Edwards…
      In the US, 4,821 workers were killed on the job in 2014 [www.bls.gov/iif/cfoi_revised14.htm] (3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) — on average, more than 92 a week or more than 13 deaths every day. Labor unions are the only thing pushing for a fair shake for everyone.. You want an 80 hour work week?

      • Matt Young

        Joe, if an employee doesn’t feel adequately compensated for their job wouldn’t it make sense for them to find a different job. (and if they are a valuable employee I assume they would be able to find one) Not sure the number of US worker deaths per year is a great argument for the existence of the self serving teachers union.

      • Paul Richards

        “In the US, 4,821 workers were killed on the job in 2014 ”
        wow, way to sensationalize a simple matter! Are our teachers in danger of being killed on the job? What is the relevance?
        ” You want an 80 hour work week?” Again; what is the relevance? We have labor laws to protect employees. Is the discriminatory, public sector union monopoly exclusively protecting their members from significant dangers of being killed or working 80 hours each week? Should the rest of us be worried?
        “Labor unions are the only thing pushing for a fair shake for everyone.” labor unions certainly are not pushing for a fair shake for me or millions of other taxpayers who are being forced against their will to contribute to their discriminatory pay and benefits.

        • joe hill

          4,000 people dying on the job in this country isn’t concerning enough to employers either, clearly (…I think those employment laws you speak of to protect us all are working quite wonderfully.) The fact that you see this as non-alarming says it all. Why would you care about the welfare of the next generation of human beings when you don’t care about people now?

          The percentage of your dollar that goes to teachers is minutiae compared to the percentage going in to the hands of the billionaire class. The corporate welfare we pay to the criminal fat-cats, who fraud and abuse you and I, is where the taxpayer and workers are getting screwed. Not from investment in your community.

          Additionally, incidentally, you’re paying more money to finance the prisoners who don’t learn to use their brain in school, and we all suffer the increase in crime and poverty.

          It’s very complex. I doubt you’ll understand. Cheers!

  • Steve Baker

    It’s interesting that unions in school employees to help themselves as being top professionals as they act like an unruly mob. Teachers in the state are paid for more then professionals with similar jobs and tasks. They make for more in the median income households and work half the amount of time. They contribute barely nothing to their benefit package.
    I’ve always wondered why our employees get a better deal than the employers ?

  • Adrienne Raymond

    If the State would take on the task of negotiating wages, insurance, and retirement, contract negotiations over working conditions would be quick and effective. The system, as it is now, mixes these two very important pieces of the employment contract, allowing the union to play the multiple local boards against one another through their well organized state-wide bargaining strategies. It is a supremely frustrating process.