Thursday, May 20, 2004

Teachers union satisfied with fact-finder's report

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati teachers scored a victory Wednesday when a state-appointed fact-finder sided with them on many issues in their disputed three-year contract.

Union leaders are urging their members to support the fact-finder's report when they vote next week, even though they didn't get everything they wanted, such as an employee severance incentive plan.

Sue Taylor, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, said it's time to grant the district's 3,500 teachers, nurses, librarians, psychologists and counselors a contract. Their previous contract expired in December.

"It's not in the best interest of the students, the parents and community members to continue to have this dispute ongoing," she said.

Board President Florence Newell issued a statement saying the board, legal counsel and district are reviewing the report and asking Superintendent Alton Frailey to prepare a recommendation.

The school board and the teachers union have seven days to vote on the fact-finder's recommendations, which are binding unless 60 percent of the union's membership or board votes to reject them.

If the findings are rejected, the parties could agree to go back to the table to negotiate or the union could agree to a job action.

If the report stands, the most experienced teachers will receive additional 3 percent raises to help retain them and more students will have access to music teachers.

The contract also includes a 3.2 percent raise for teachers retroactive to Jan. 1 and smaller pay increases the next two years.

The board could vote as early as Monday. Teachers will vote Tuesday and Wednesday.

Support from both the teachers and board could put an end to five months of negotiations, which grew sour after the school board rejected a tentative contract agreement in March.

Despite the board vote, the union voted March 19 and 20 overwhelmingly to approve the contract. Representatives of both sides had negotiated the contract during 33 sessions.

Frailey and some board members at the time said they could not support the agreement because it didn't include language to change the way teachers are paid.

Union leaders said the board's team never suggested alternative pay plans.

During the fact-finding hearing, both the school board and teachers agreed to convene a committee to research different systems for paying teachers.


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