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Union files unfair labor practice charge against SK School Committee

August 1, 2011

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – After the School Committee filed a complaint in Washington Superior Court last Thursday against NEASK, the union took their own legal route by filing an unfair labor practice charge with the State Labor Board last week.

The charge sites bad faith or service bargaining against the school committee.

“The school committee has an obligation under the law to bargain with the union over the terms and conditions of work. They gave us a proposal that said they’re not going to bargain. We didn’t have a choice [to file a charge],” Union Attorney John Leidecker said Thursday morning.

The school committee and teacher’s union are in disagreement over whether the union can negotiate Rhode Island Department of Education’s new regulations, the Basic Education Plan (BEP) and the teacher evaluation policy.

“The BEP and the policies are made to get schools to where they are high performing. We’re already high performing and high improving. Being as good as we already are to see that [the school committee] uses that as an excuse to attack our contract is disingenuous. It’s unnecessary,” NEASK President Christine Heid said.

The school committee’s budget is based on filling a $755,000 budget hole. Although the committee has proposed a salary freeze for teachers and a 20 percent co-share to fill this gap, the school committee stated in a Wednesday, July 27 letter that it was open to discussions on how else to fill the $755,000 hole. The Union proposed savings through a Health Savings Account, but the school committee said the plan would not guarantee the savings they need by September.

Leidecker said the Union has offered a plan to meet the $755,000 in concessions and wanted to detail the specifics of their plan, but school committee attorney Daniel Kinder said they did not have to go into the specifics of the plan.

“They’re saying we did not meet that number. We did. This is not about money. This is about staying at the quality the schools are at,” Leidecker said.

This past Wednesday the school committee sent out responses through the school listserv to teachers who have emailed them.

In one letter, the school committee answered why they have been consulting their lawyer, Daniel Kinder, who many teachers associate with the contentious 2008 East Providence school negotiations.

“Very shortly after the contract was signed, the economy bottomed out. Just as your attorney, John Leidecker is guiding you through your negotiations, our attorney is guiding us. He works for us and follows the direction we set for him. We have no intention of going down the road of East Providence. As you have stated time and time again, we are not East Providence. We could not agree more. This is South Kingstown,” the school committee stated.

Hoping to expedite negotiations and to determine whether the RIDE policies are subject to bargaining, the School Committee also asked the union to request expedition of a decision. Leidecker said the union suggested putting off the policies discussions until the court makes a decision. He said he’s waiting for the school’s response.

There are four meetings planned on Aug. 2, 4, 11 and 18 at Broad Rock Middle School. For more information, pick up a copy of The Narragansett Times.

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