With four out of the District’s five employee contracts set to expire on June 30, 2011, including the Teachers Association (MTA), Administrators Association (MAA), Civil Service (Secretaries), and Civil Service
(non-teaching, custodians, bus drivers, maintenance) and negotiations set to begin in January or early February,the Mamaroneck School Board Tuesday night gave the community a primer on the principles and practices involved in collective bargaining.
In a Powerpoint presentation, Dr. Robert Shaps, Superintendent of Schools and Attorney Emily Lucas gave background on negotiations, highlighting the negotiating laws governing New York State, and delineated the process and worst-case scenarios during collective bargaining.
Lucas reviewed the two laws that govern collective bargaining: The Taylor Law and The Triborough Amendment. The Taylor Law, enacted in 1967, provides the right to organize and mandates that employers negotiate with unions. The law prohibits strikes. The Taylor Law requires that all parties bargain in "good faith." In other words, all parties involved in negotiations need to come to the table with a sincere desire to reach an agreement, she said.
The Triborough Amendment does not permit a contract to expire. Rather, the terms and conditions of the contract are rolled over until a successor agreement is reached. Thus, health insurance, leave, benefits and incremental salary increases remain in effect.
Lucas also explained that the negotiating process involves a review of contracts, language, provisions, compensation and benefits. Typically, the terms of a proposal will anticipate a three year term, examine recent area contract settlements and trends in local areas. The Board works in collaboration with counsel who guide the members through the process. In the end, the Board recommends and reviews all changes and proposals. There are customary and usual ground-rules established between all parties involved in negotiations and there is a commitment "to sit at the table over time and come to an agreement."
What happens if negotiations fail? Lucas explained that when parties involved are no longer able to work face- to-face and negotiations are "no longer fruitful" then either one or both of the parties can file an impasse document with the Public Employment Relations Board or PERB. PERB will appoint a mediator from a list of neutral parties. If mediation fails, fact finding is ordered. PERB appoints a hearing officer who acts as a neutral party and explores two criteria: the district’s ability to pay based on its tax base and its socio-economic demographic; and comparable data in neighboring school districts. A Fact Finder issues a decision which is not binding. Within five days, both parties have the option to wholly accept, partially accept, or wholly decline the decision. If an agreement is still not reached, there is a Superconciliation ordered which involves additional intensive bargaining.
Finally, Lucas clarified the confidentiality required in collective bargaining. The Taylor Law requires "good faith" bargaining which prohibits any form of communication which may impede the negotiating process. Additionally, Dr. Shaps explained that the Board has a Fiduciary responsibility and is not permitted to disclose what happens during Executive Sessions.
–Debbie Ausch is owner of Prodigy Learning Center in Larchmont