Those are the two words that certainly get everyone's attention when you're talking about labor negotiations.
In the final paragraph of a lengthy press release from the Lehighton Area Education Association, published on the front page of today's TIMES NEWS, the teachers' union states:
"If this impasse is not quickly resolved the teachers' union is prepared for a job action that will affect the 2,434 students who attend schools in the district."
Do they mean it, or is it just saber rattling to try and force the district's school board into action? We hope that's the case.
Nobody wants a strike. Not the teachers, not the administrators and board, and certainly not the students and their parents. A strike would be a disaster and would open wounds that would take many years to close.
The teachers have been working without a contract since last August. In a separate matter, the para professionals (teachers' aides) have gone two years without a pact.
While negotiations have been relatively civil during the impasse, things are now starting to heat up on both sides.
The board is threatening cutbacks to satisfy a new contract, telling the public and the teachers that in order to meet the demands of the educators, sacrifices will have to be made.
The teachers union then countered those statements with threats of a walkout, plus citing examples of what they thought was excessive spending in other areas by the board.
A fact-finders report was agreed to by the educators, even though they said the fact-finder's recommendations were lower than the contract demands that the teachers were seeking.
The board rejected the fact-finder's recommendations.
But we think that report is a good starting point for both sides to sit down and hammer out a contract that may not make both sides happy, but will give them a common ground in which to reach a settlement.
All of the schools in the Lehighton district surpass state averages in Adequate Yearly Progress reports. That's a sign that educators and students are doing a good job.
The teachers deserve a raise, even in this tough economic climate. The board, on the other hand, must maintain its fiscal responsibility to the district's taxpayers.
With those issues in mind, we hope that both sides can sit down and hammer out a deal, without any of the threats on both sides becoming a reality.