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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 10/17/12
Union sets aside
lockout case for arbitration
by CHRIS GRAYLitigation claiming Romeo Community Schools (RCS) held a lockout has been closed in favor of trying to reach an agreement.
Observer Staff Writer
A joint letter signed by Superintendent Nancy Campbell and Romeo Education Association (REA) President John Rutledge states a decision was made between the RCS board and REA leaders to set aside the lockout case.
The decision also resulted in the two parties agreeing to use an arbitrator to hammer out any outstanding issues.
Evidentiary hearings with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission were scheduled to begin Sept. 28 for the claims that RCS "locked out" teachers by violating Public Act 54, which states when a contract expires the employer must provide wages and benefits until a new agreement is in place.
School normally begins before Labor Day weekend, but RCS decided to delay the start until Sept. 5, five days after the teacher's contract expired.
However, Campbell said before they took place both parties agreed to meeting with the arbitrator in December. Depending on how the election plays out, though, they may meet in November.
"In the meantime, both parties are talking about when we can continue contract negotiations," Campbell said. "We're hopeful that we can reach a contract settlement before arbitration."
The Michigan Education Association (MEA) Local 1 alleged that the district's decision to start school after Labor Day weekend caused teachers to miss contractual step increases, calling it a "lockout" since teachers weren't paid for doing their prepatory work.
They further claimed the start date for school should be an item for collective bargaining, but the district chose the date on its own.
RCS administrators, though, say a new contract needs to be in place for the steps to kick in, and that the start date is, in fact, not a negotiated item.
"What arbitration will do is get into the parts of the law that get into the start of school," Campbell said.
Although the litigation is closed, Campbell said the union still has the option of starting the process all over again once arbitration ends.
Until a new contract is settled, teachers will be paid using the salaries and benefits from the contract that expired on Aug. 31.
Calls to the Local 1 were not returned as of print deadline.