Palmerton teachers reject contract
The Palmerton Area Education Association has rejected the latest counter offer from Palmerton Area School Board, as teachers continue to work without a contract.
Teachers have been working without an agreement since their three-year contract expired in June 2012. That contract called for a 3 percent increase in teachers' salaries.
Since then, both the district and the PAEA have been mired in contract negotiations.
Most recently, both parties agreed to ask a state mediator for a recommended proposal.
On Oct. 21, the state mediator issued a recommended proposal that called for a four-year contract with a 3 percent increase in teachers salaries.
As part of that proposal, teachers would see no salary increase in 2012-13; 2.87 percent in 2013-14 (back to September); 3.02 percent in 2014-15; and 3.37 percent increase in 2015-16.
On Nov. 14, the district accepted the state mediator's proposal. But, on Nov. 18, the PAEA rejected the proposal, at which time the district re-implemented its last best offer and final offer, and again takes back wages off the table.
All of the information is posted at www.palmerton.org, under the link "Negotiation Info".
The board explains on the district's website its statement of issues:
"The Palmerton Area School District board of directors has made the decision to publish the negotiation documents and positions of the parties for purposes of transparency and educating the taxpayers on the issues in dispute," it says.
"The publication of proposals and positions is in no way intended to be viewed as adversarial. To be sure, this board respects and admires our teachers and the work they do. We simply want to lay the issues out to the community so there is no question about our motives and concerns regarding the protracted negotiations."
Four major issues are in dispute: health benefits; attritional savings and salary; retiree benefits; and tuition reimbursement and columnar movement
"Issues that are on the table are all geared to save the taxpayers unnecessary increases while maintaining, if not improving, the excellent service our district already provides its students," the board statement said.
Contacted Wednesday, President Tom Smelas said, "We were made aware of the information last week, and the association is still reviewing the information that's been published on the website."
Smelas said, "The Association is disappointed that the district felt the need to put this information on the website during ongoing negotiations."
He added, "Since the process began, both sides have attempted to bargain in good faith behind closed doors, and the Association feels that productive negotiations, and ultimately, a settlement, will come out of a private discussion among the parties."
Both sides are awaiting direction from the state mediator at this point, Smelas said.