… State Labor Relations Board asked to resolve dispute …
By Sara Toth, firstname.lastname@example.org
1:09 PM EDT, June 7, 2011
After six months of negotiations, the county Board of Education has reached a stalemate with the Howard County Education Association, the largest union in the school system.
While neither side would discuss the reasons for the stalemate, Sue Mascaro, director of staff relations for the Howard County Public School System, said that HCEA requested a declaration of impasse. It now will be up to the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board to officially declare an impasse, and then settle the matter.
Dates for those proceedings have not be determined, said Ann DeLacy, president of HCEA. An agreement must be reached by July 1, or members of HCEA will be working without a contract.
This is the first time in at least 10 years negotiations have come to a standstill, Mascaro said.
The relations board, which operates out of Annapolis, was established by the General Assembly July 1, 2010, and settles disputes between local boards and unions. Past negotiations have not reached stalemates because HCEA didn’t have the option of taking its case to the labor relations board, DeLacy said.
Each year, HCEA is only able to negotiate one article of its contract, DeLacy said. That will change in 2013, she added, when the entire contract is up for negotiation.
DeLacy and Mascaro both declined to specify what issues the two sides could not agree on this year.
“I can say that they were not comfortable with the package we were sharing with the other unions,” Mascaro said.
HCEA is the largest bargaining unit within the school system, representing more than 4,500 teachers, counselors, psychologists, pupil personnel workers, interpreters, therapists, assistants, school social workers, secretaries, clerks, registrars and technical employees within the central office.
Agreements with the three other school system unions were announced last week.
According to its website, the school system has a total staff of 7,826 for the 2010-2011 school year.
Agreements with the Association of Federal, State and Municipal Employees, which represents custodial, maintenance, grounds and warehouse staff, and the Howard County Administrators Association, which represents school-based administrators, administrative interns, instructional facilitators and athletics and activities managers, will be formally ratified and signed at the June 21 board meeting.
A tentative agreement with the Howard County Education Association Educational Support Professionals is awaiting a vote by the association’s representative assembly.
DeLacy said it was typical for those unions to reach agreements before HCEA, because many of the unions have a “me-too” clause in their contracts.
“If we negotiate a better situation in any aspect, the other units get the benefit of our negotiations because we have the largest bargaining unit,” DeLacy said.
In a statement from the school system regarding the board agreements with the other unions, Sydney Cousin, superintendent of Howard schools, said the agreements were reasonable given the schools’ $683 million maintenance-of-effort budget, approved by the County Council May 25 and adopted by the board May 31.
“These agreements reflect that reality,” Cousin said in the release.