A rushed process

MEA, school district enter into earlier-than-normal collective bargaining negotiations

With major changes to collective bargaining at the threshold of becoming state law, Marshalltown Education Association and Marshalltown Schools officials met to open wages and benefits negotiations Thursday evening.

“This was kind of an expedited process to say the least,” said MEA Lead Negotiator Brad Weidenaar. “There are, obviously, reasons for that that aren’t local.”

He said the process of negotiating wages and benefits is usually given proper time to develop, but with the situation concerning collective bargaining at the state level, Weidenaar said the goal is to, if possible, finish negotiations before the state legislature-passed collective bargaining bill can be signed into law.

The school district and the MEA each presented their respective opening proposals.

“The MEA proposes a two-year contract with all appropriate dates reflecting the duration of this agreement,” Weidenaar read off of the MEA’s opening proposal.

The district’s initial proposal, read by attorney John Veldey, calls for a one-year contract.

The two groups’ initial proposals also differed in supplemental pay schedule, with the district offering 1.16 percent and the MEA proposing 2 percent.

Another set of changes proposed by the district concerned reduction of staff.

“The district proposes changing the phrase ‘primarily on this basis of seniority’ to ‘primarily on the basis of seniority given all other qualifications are equal,” read Veldey, referencing a criterion for reducing staff.

Leaves of absence were also discussed during the opening proposal segment.

“The district proposes reducing the sick leave maximum from 200 days to 120 days for current employees and employees hired for the 2017-2018 school year,” Veldey said, adding those with more than total 120 sick leave days earned before the agreement goes through would be grandfathered in and be capped as of June 30.

Another leaves of absence proposal calls for all absences for sick leave to be reported to the employee’s supervisor no later than 6:30 a.m. on the day of the absence.

The MEA proposed a continuation of three side letters in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years, including an extra personal day for longevity, payment for teacher coverage, and peer review and collaboration time.

Also proposed by the collective bargaining unit was the acceptance of the Insurance Committee’s recommendations regarding the health insurance plan.

After all the opening proposals were made, the district and MEA officials met in a closed session to discuss the initial language each side presented.

Weidenaar said it is understood that the situation with collective bargaining changes by the state legislature may stop the current process if passed into law before negotiations finish.

“We understand that it’s entirely possible that things might progress before we get this process done, and we’ll have to start over,” Weidenaar said.

A special Marshalltown School Board meeting to discuss MEA negotiations in a closed session is set for noon today at the Central Administration Office, 1002 S. 3rd Ave. The school board will meet in regular session at 5 p.m. Monday in the same location.