Neshaminy School District, support for union disagree on contract

The exclusion of benefits for spouses of Neshaminy School District support staff appears to be the main stumbling block to a negotiated settlement between the school board and Neshaminy Educational Support Professional Association workers.

The Neshaminy school board and district administration are “extremely disappointed” with union members who voted against the proposed new contract for the next five years, school board member Tina Hollenbach said as she read an announcement on the failure of negotiations at the council meeting on Wednesday. Union members voted Sept. 17 to decline the contract offer that included wage increases totaling more than 4% for each of the five years.

The total cost to the district and ratepayers is $3.4 million over the life of the contract, the district said. The union represents about 500 workers who are, among others, district secretaries, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teaching assistants and maintenance workers.

The district, in a statement on Thursday, said the contract proposal was its “absolute best final offer before the negotiation process resumes.”

The main reason union members turned down the contract offer is spousal coverage in benefits and because the district negotiated mid-contract pay raises with confidential secretaries and floor-level employees. cabinet, while settling a new contract with Bill 93 employees (principals), said Bonnie Neiman, a Pennsylvania State Education Association representative who has worked with the union.

“None of these groups were asked to exclude their spouses from the plans,” Neiman noted in a response to the district’s statement.

She added that support staff have become a key player during the COVID crisis “and have done so willingly and proudly… We now have a new post-COVID climate. There is a national shortage of workers. there are many vacancies,” she said. , and union members are urged to absorb extra work while seeing nearby districts offer full-time jobs with dependent benefits.

Neiman said the problem dates back to 2014, when newly hired employees were placed on a lower pay grade than those hired before that year. And they were offered unique benefits that omitted coverage for dependents, saving the district money.

When full-time positions were vacated, they were replaced by part-time employees without health benefits, she added, and some employees were not earning the region’s living wage.

That changed with the new proposal, in which the district included dependent coverage for all full-time members, but would require spouses to purchase insurance through their own employers. This was a big reason for the downvotes on the package. Some members of the association have provided coverage for their spouses for years, she said.

“The No. 1 reason was spousal exclusion language, as many workers felt the financial impact would far exceed the wage increase provided by the district,” Neiman said. “It’s very costly for them.”

The district’s previous contract with the association expired on June 30, 2022. Its members have worked without a contract since then, while negotiations that began in December continued through the spring in the presence of a state mediator.

“While the District is prepared to re-engage in what could prove to be a long and arduous process, the District has advised that the offer that has been agreed upon is at the upper limit of the burden we as that your elected representatives believe our taxpayers will support. It was and is the absolute best final offer before the negotiation process resumes,” Hollenbach said. “We hope NESPA leaders will engage with their members to reconsider this proposal.”

The district said it had eliminated a two-tier benefits plan and would no longer have a trial period for the start of benefits for eligible employees and their dependents, but it sought to introduce a high-deductible scheme as a health insurance option with the employer. contributions to a health savings account for those who have chosen the high-deductible scheme.

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Neshaminy said he received assurances and requested that the association’s negotiating committee recommend the contract proposal to the full membership, but that did not happen.

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The district ended the statement by saying the offer “is fair and both parties would benefit from a settlement.”

NESPA wants to return to the negotiating table “to iron out the issues”, Neiman said.

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