Last updated: October 21. 2013 11:34PM - 2756 Views
By - mguydish@civitasmedia.com

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KINGSTON — Teachers at the Luzerne Intermediate Unit, working under terms of an expired contract since August 2010, plan an informational protest prior to the monthly meeting of the LIU board of directors Wednesday, Union spokesman Paul Shemansky said.

Union President Ed Clark will speak during the meeting.

“We don’t think the board fully understands the important work the board does for the Intermediate Unit working with kids with special needs,” Shemansky said. The LIU provides a variety of services to area schools, primarily special education, and is run by a board comprised of representatives from the school boards of the 12 member districts.

“Four years without a contract is really not going well with the people that work there,” Shemansky said.

The contract expired Aug. 31, 2010, and by law negotiations began in January that year. Among other issues, the two sides have been engaged in a legal battle regarding retroactive pay.

The union filed a grievance claiming teachers deserved a contractual pay increase in 2010 because the school year began before the old contract expired. An arbiter agreed, and the board lost an appeal to Luzerne County Court. Board negotiator Attorney John Audi is filing an appeal in Commonwealth court.

On Monday union lead negotiator John Holland blamed the lack of a contract on the board’s effort to “weaken the language of the contract,” and “take things away” from teachers.

“When management comes in with unrealistic proposals, where are you going to go?” Holland said. “Part of the problem is John Audi’s views on labor management relations. I think he has a very archaic, 19th-century view that you can just force your will on employees.

Audi countered that the board has made reasonable contract proposals and offered three dates for negotiations that the union has not accepted.

Audi said the board offer lets teachers keep traditional insurance and go to any doctor, but with a higher deductible, or switch to a preferred provider option with a network of doctors and lower deductibles of $154 for single coverage and $450 for a family.

The board also wants to eliminate what Audi dubbed a “sneaky escalator” in the old contract that increased pay for many employees above the average salary in member districts. The LIU contract is supposed to set salaries on member averages, but Audi said the escalator can mean a veteran teacher can get “$10,000 more than the average.”

“We’re not taking any money away from anyone,” Audi sad, “there is nothing draconian in the board’s proposal.”

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