September 7, 1998
Riverview schools staff and district reach impasse on negotiations
But both sides optimistic that agreement will be reached
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
CARNATION--Riverview District employees took part in an informational picket line at Carnation Elementary Sept. 1 to publicize a lack of progress in contract talks with the district.
School staff and the district have been unable to agree on contract terms since July 23, said Donna Lease, President of Riverview PSE, an affiliate of Public School Employees of Washington.
Due to the lack of progress, the school employees requested the help of a mediator, but a mediation hearing on Sept. 2 failed to resolve any of the issues, most of which focus on salaries, Lease said.
"We are still at an impasse," she said. "There are a lot of issues, but all the employees are continuing to work."
The union represents 154 bus drivers, mechanics, aides,custodians, clerical staff and food workers. A second mediation hearing is set for the end of September, Lease said.
PSE Field Representative Pauline Steiner said the original proposal by the union was for a 10 percent increase in salaries in the first year of a new agreement.
"We haven't moved from that position," she said. "But I am optimistic that both sides will do what's necessary to reach an agreement."
She added that no decisions will be made until the next mediation hearing.
District Superintendent Dr. Jack Ernst said the contracts with both the school employees and teachers expired Aug. 31.
"We are negotiating with both groups," he said. "Typically that takes place during the summer, but with the short summer, we didn't have enough time to work through the issues."
Ernst said that mediation usually delays negotiations a bit, while the mediator gets "up to speed" on the issues.
He added he was reluctant to make any further comments on the negotiations, but said the district will continue to work with the union.
"I think our relationship is pretty good," he said. "But I expect negotiations could take a fair amount of time."
Ernst remarked that he doesn't think any positions in the district will be cut, and maybe even some added with the increased number of students enrolled.
"We have 3,000 students enrolled this year," he said. "We are trying to figure out where to put them all."
Ernst said the District is in a "tight budget, which is a cause for concern."
He said the last contract for the school employees gave them fairly large raises, which were not supported by the state.