The Cranberry Eagle
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Article published February 25, 2013

Support personnel union votes on deal
Results being withheld until March meeting

Paula Grubbs
Cranberry Eagle

ADAMS TWP — The Mars Educational Support Personnel union has voted on a contract presented to it by the Mars School District, but the result of that vote will not be revealed until March 12.

Attorney Tom Breth, negotiator for the school district, said the 81 custodians, secretaries, paraprofessionals and cafeteria workers voted Wednesday afternoon.
Lori Boggs, MESP president, said the results will be revealed at the school board meeting at 7 p.m. March 12 at the administration office adjacent to Mars Primary Center.
The support workers’ contract expired June 30. The district called in a state fact finder in the spring, and both sides offered their testimony.
However, the union twice rejected the fact finder’s report while the school board twice approved it.
The board in June sought bids from companies that could contract with the district to provide the services now completed by union employees.
Breth said in August that the board sought the bids for cost comparison purposes during negotiations with the union, but it could vote to hire one of the outside contractors if it chose.
Several parents, students and teachers have since attended school board meetings to implore the board not to contract out the support positions, but school board President Dayle Ferguson made it clear last summer that the option remains on the table.
District business manager Jill Swaney said in August that the bids showed a significant savings to the school district should the board decide to contract outside personnel.
Regarding the agreement presented this week to the union, Breth said Wednesday that it includes a two-year wage freeze plus concessions by the district. He said both the union and district bargaining committees approved the agreement, but its fate was up to the vote of the union membership.
He said the district made “tremendous concessions from where the bids came in,” meaning the board could have saved more by contracting support services with an outside company.
“However, the board thought (the agreement) was reasonable because they have been trying to reach an agreement with this bargaining unit for some time,” Breth said.
Breth said salary and benefits have been the two sides’ main sticking points in the bargaining sessions that have been held since May. He said if the school board on March 12 learns the union ratified the agreement, he expects the board to vote as well.
If the union rejected it, he is unsure what direction the board will take.
“I am hoping the board has something positive to vote on,” Breth said.
The board and its 200-member teachers union reached a two-year contract in November after a long struggle to come to an agreement.
The support union last met on Tuesday night.