ANeSU negotiations back on tap

BRISTOL — For almost two years, Addison Northeast Supervisory Union (ANeSU) teachers have been working without a collective bargaining agreement. Representatives from the ANeSU teachers’ union are hoping to reach an agreement on Monday and shed the imposed conditions that they’ve been working under since January 2011.
The negotiations, slated for Monday, will be held behind closed doors in executive session.
Last month, union reps met with the ANeSU’s lead negotiating committee after the release of a fact-finding report, which was created by third-party moderator John Cochran. The fact-finding report draws from both sides’ proposals, conditions at nearby school districts and overall economic conditions to create a compromise between the union and the school boards.
But the school boards’ negotiating committee wasn’t ready to strike an agreement last month. It wanted to discuss the issue with all of the school boards in a May 30 executive session. On Monday, in another executive session meeting, the two sides are going back to the drawing board.
While ANeSU lead negotiator Lanny Smith was recently willing to comment on certain parts of the fact-finding report, Caitlin Leggett, the union’s lead negotiator, withheld comment on specifics. She did say, however, that the union wants to follow the recommendations of the report.
There are, nonetheless, three sticking points that might hold up the negotiations: salaries, health insurance premiums and a mandatory fee that teachers who aren’t members of the union would have to pay to the union for its collective bargaining services.
When Smith was asked if he thought the report was fair, he replied: “It’s probably one of the most balanced ones I’ve seen over the years. I don’t necessarily agree with (Cochran’s) thinking, but I do agree it’s more balanced than many I’ve seen.”
The fact-finding report, which was recently made public, illuminates some major differences between the board and the union, particularly on salaries.
The board proposed a 1-percent increase in 2011, a 1.5-percent increase in 2012 and a 1.5-percent increase in 2013 — averaged across the teachers, as Smith explained it. No step increases — which account for certifications, higher degrees and experience — would be included.
Meanwhile, the union — which would not specify how this money would be spread out, like Smith did — proposed about a 4-percent increase over two years with step increases. It asked for a 1.92-percent increase in 2011 and a 2.15-percent increase in 2012.
Cochran’s recommendations went one step further: He recommended a 2.9-percent increase for the 2011-2012 school year and a 2.9-percent increase for the 2012-2013 school year with step increases. These numbers are similar to the four-year contract Rutland teachers agreed to last month, except they won’t get step increases until the third year.
The Rutland Heraldreported that Rutland teacher salaries will rise 2.7 percent in the first year of the new contract and 2.8 percent in the second year. Teachers will get a 2.9-percent raise in the third year and 3-percent raise in the fourth year, after which the agreement expires. 
Health care costs are another issue. When the board imposed a contract in 2011, it lifted teacher health insurance premium contributions from 10 percent to 15 percent. By contrast, the Rutland teachers will contribute 11 percent this year, 11.5 percent in the second year of their contract, 12 percent in the third year and 13 percent in the fourth year.
According to the fact-finding report, “Even though teachers in some (Addison and Rutland county) districts are now paying 12-13 percent of their health insurance premiums, the teachers in Addison Northeast pay the most.”
Of all Cochran’s recommendations, the one Smith most adamantly opposes is that teachers should have to pay for union collective bargaining services even if they’re not in the union.
“Because the (union) is required by law to provide the same collective bargaining and contract administration services to members and non-members alike, service fee language provides only that all teachers, regardless of whether they choose to become (union) members, will pay for their fair share of those services,” wrote Cochran.
But Smith has a huge issue with paying for services that you didn’t necessarily agree to fund.
“That, to me, is just so un-American,” he said. “That’s definitely one of the extreme lowlights of the report for me.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected]

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