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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 09/05/12
Teacher union claims
'lockout' stops increases
by CHRIS GRAYUnion representatives for Romeo teachers are claming a later start date for school is denying them contractual step increases and payment for preparatory work.
Observer Staff Writer
Administrators, however, say the change was the Board of Education's decision to make, and that a new contract must be negotiated.
In past years, the start date for both students and teachers were before the Labor Day weekend. The Board of Education, however, decided that the start date this year would be Sept. 5, a week later than normal.
Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association (MEA) Local 1 that represents teachers, called the delayed dates a "violation of trust."
She said the MEA believes the actions of the Board of Education represent an illegal "lockout" and are looking to take legal recourse.
"The problem is, the start and end date is a bargaining issue," she said.
She cited Public Act 54, which states if the school year starts before the contract expires, the district is obligated to make seniority step payments.
By beginning on Sept. 5, the act is not invoked, and teachers will not be paid for any work they are doing before the start date.
Herbart said prior to the act, teachers would move up in their steps as negotiations continued, hence the use of the term lockout.
"In Romeo, what they're saying is we know that's the law now, so to specifically not allow you to move on your step . . . they purposefully imposed a calendar which starts the teacher's work year after the deadline," she said.
Although the Board of Education decides the start date for students, Herbart said the start and end date for teachers is a negotiated item.
John Rutledge, Romeo Education Association president, said most teachers consider their first day to be Aug. 28 so they can be ready for the school year.
"Teachers want to be ready to start the minute students walk in the door," he said. "That takes preparation time and planning."
Superintendent Nancy Campbell said teachers have been coming in early to prepare, but it is considered to be on a voluntary basis due to the changed start date.
"No one's locked out," she said.
Campbell said the group's three-year contract expired on Aug. 31, so if school were to have started it would've meant negotiated items like steps and wages were concluded.
"Everyone received their wages for the 2011-12 year," she said.
She said any new agreements or changes to health care, steps and other aspects still need to be hammered out in contract negotiations.
"Both sides have been negotiating over the summer," she said. "A formal proposal has been made by each side and they are continuing to negotiate."
She said she is aware that the union is looking to take any legal remedies open to them.
Fraser Public Schools have also moved their start date after the Labor Day weekend. In a press release from union leaders, it was noted that the same legal firm represents both Romeo and Fraser schools.