September 17, 2014

Medina
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Wadsworth Schools, union to try again on new contract

WADSWORTH — City school officials plan to meet with union leaders representing the district’s non-teaching, support staff this afternoon.

Both sides said they hope to reach a deal on a contract that expired June 30.

Talks that began in April broke off after the union membership in December rejected the recommendation of its negotiating team and voted down the school board’s “last and final offer.”

In response to the union vote, the school board on Jan. 23 imposed the provisions of the final offer, retroactive to Jan. 1.

Members of the Wadsworth Educational Support Personnel Association — which represents about 200 custodians, bus drivers, maintenance and cafeteria workers, secretaries and other support personnel — protested the imposed conditions, which provide for no pay raises other than “step increases” for longevity but increase health insurance costs.

The district is providing one-time stipends to offset the higher health care costs. But the union argued that the one-time stipend is between $50 and $300, while the stipend awarded to teachers in an approved contract is between $500 and $750.

JoNell Fox, president of the union and a janitor in the district, told The Gazette last week the union wanted benefits at least equal to those given to teachers. Treasurer Douglas Beeman said the school district took into account the fact that only 25 percent of the support staff receive health care when calculating the stipends. The support staff doesn’t generate as much a savings to the school as the teachers do, he said.

“It costs us more to implement it for the support staff than for the teachers,” he said. “Everyone has the same plan; it’s just that a lot of our support staff don’t work full time … which doesn’t allow them to get benefits.”

Under the rules imposed on union members, employees earning health insurance get a $300 stipend and those without insurance get $150. Those working less than three hours a week get a $50 stipend. In the second year, union members who receive a step increase would get no stipend.

In the teacher contract, teachers receiving a step increase get a stipend of $500, while those without a step increase receive a stipend of $750. All teachers get at least a $500 stipend regardless of whether they receive a step increase.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.