July 15, 2002
School District seeks mediation assistance
According to information released by the Northshore School District, at the July 10 bargaining session with the Northshore Education Association (NSEA), district negotiators announced they would seek mediation assistance from the Public Employee Relations Commission to help with teacher negotiations.
The district reported that while the teachers' association indicated they would not object to this request, they declined to participate in a joint request.
"We are concerned about the number and complexity of the issues on the table, the financial implications and the lack of movement toward agreement to date," said Laurie Ferwerda, lead negotiator for the district. "The progress we had hoped for by this time has not occurred. We are optimistic that a mediator will help us expedite the process so settlement can be reached prior to the opening of school."
Aaron Feik, president of the NSEA, stated that the Northshore School District has attempted to lure teachers away from the association and over to their side during bargaining.
"This attempt," Feik said, "is an unfair labor practice and the association has filed a complaint with Olympia's Public Employment Relations Commission.
Feik reported that the complaint, filed July 10, is based on illegal communications sent to bargaining unit members by the district. On June 12, according to Feik, the school district sent a memorandum to each building stating that the school district's reserves were considerably less than the association's own statements to membership. This communication, plus two earlier district memoranda are illegal interference with the association's right to bargain, said Feik.
"We strongly believe there is no merit in the NSEA claim of an unfair labor practice," said Pamela Steele, Director of Communications for the Northshore School District. "It is our duty to keep our administrators informed of what's going on the district and to provide them with factual information that allows them to accurately respond to staff and community questions."
At their June 17 meeting NSEA members passed a strike authorization vote by 93 percent. Major bargaining items in the negotiations between teachers and the district include compensation, insurance benefits, work day and work load issues, according to NSEA.
"More than anything else," Feik said "building morale is low and teacher workload is too heavy ..." He went on to say the association and district are about $3.5 million apart. "A strike is likely," Feik said, "and parents should begin to make plans for a delayed opening of school.'