By Jenny Neyman
As Kenai Peninsula Borough School District funding settles into a rosier outlook than expected, the district is hoping to get its expenses squared away in its budget, as well, before the 2012 fiscal year calendar turns a page to 2013 on June 30. A big part of that still up in the air is ongoing negotiations with employee associations over three-year contracts slated to start in fiscal year 2013. Those negotiations hit another rough patch Tuesday when the employee associations submitted an Unfair Labor Practices claim against the district.
Negotiation teams for the district, the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association, meeting since January, had not come to agreement on the contracts by the end of April, prompting a two-day session of mediation May 1 and 2 that also ended without agreement on the big remaining sticking points — salary and health care. Generally, the next step after mediation is for the parties to enter advisory arbitration, which would occur in the fall.
However, as soon as mediation concluded the district invited the associations teams back to the negotiations table, and on Friday announced a financial carrot to encourage agreement on the contracts before the fall: Settle by June 30, and all KPEA and KPESA employees will get a one-time payment of $600, for most employees, or $1,000 for the longest-serving, highest-educated employees at the far end of the salary schedule.
“Through mediation we were able to settle a number of outstanding items, and the process allowed us to make progress with several unsettled items by exploring new and different solutions. I look forward to continue working toward the settlement of all items and coming to agreement on a new contract,” stated Dave Jones, assistant superintendent for instructional support, in a KPBSD press release issued last week.
“The negotiations team really wants to try to work with the associations so that everybody can finish this year, go into summer and have the school year go off to a good start. That’s what benefits students and that puts students first,” said Pegge Erkeneff, communications specialist with the district, on Monday.
On May 2, the associations had not accepted the offer to return to the table.
“Given the fact that the mediator had barely ‘left the building,’ the associations did not see that going back would produce any favorable results. A request for arbitration has been submitted by the associations. This arbitration will more than likely take place in the fall,” stated LaDawn Druce, KPEA president, in a May 2 update to employees posted on the KPEA-KPESA website.
On Tuesday afternoon, Druce said that the associations were filing an Unfair Labor Practices claim with the Alaska Labor Relations Agency against the district in response to information the district released after the mediation session.
Erkeneff, Tuesday afternoon, said the district was not aware of the ULP complaint, and could not immediately comment on it.