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MCSEA contract headed back to bargaining table

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MASSENA - The president of the Massena Confederated School Employees’ Association says he was hoping board of education members would approve a new contract with the bargaining unit last week, but that didn’t happen.

Now, David Page said, it will be back to the drawing board to try to come to an agreement.

The district’s board of education held a special meeting Tuesday and invited representatives of the MCSEA - which includes clerical, teacher aides, nurses, food service, bus drivers, cleaners, custodians and maintenance workers - into executive session to meet with them. However, no official action was taken on the contract during Tuesday’s session.

“We’re going to meet with them tonight in executive session to explain some of the things. A few of the board members didn’t know the contract. They were told completely everything. The board members that voted against it weren’t told everything,” Mr. Page said prior to the meeting.

Board members William Sommerfield, Michael LeBire, Cristen Halladay and Ronald Faucher had last week opposed the MCSEA contract, which would have run from 2012 to 2017. Voting yes were Kevin Perretta, Gregory Fregoe and Patrick Bronchetti. Leonard Matthews was absent, and John Boyce was not present for the vote.

In a letter sent to board members, Assistant Superintendent for Business Cynthia M. Yager had asked board members not to approve the MCSEA contract, which she called “financially irresponsible.”

“Our support staff deserves a good contract, in fact they probably deserve much more than the proposal on the agenda tonight,” she wrote. “However, the proposed contract, in my opinion, is financially irresponsible. When the last long-range plan and the ‘12-13 budget were developed, the directive from the board finance committee was lower than the cost of this proposal contract. To pay for this contract, the school district will have to cut educational programs, reduce staff, outsource jobs and/or live with financial turmoil.”

Ms. Yager said the recent cut of an account clerk and transfer of the position to the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services “is the harbinger of what the future could be for this union. The salary cost savings was over $10,000. This support staff, as presented, would widen the cost differential of using BOCES’ services and would further support outsourcing these job functions in the future to the detriment of our community.

“I urge the board to reflect on these facts, and am confident the board will want to go back to the bargaining table and present a fair financial package that would be a ‘win, win’ for everyone,” she wrote.

The last MCSEA contract approved by the board in February 2008 called for a 5 percent pay increase the first year and 4 percent increases in each of the following years of the four-year contract.

It also changed the health insurance plan to Riders 5 and 6, which teachers also had in the district.

However, in 2011 members of the MCSEA joined the Massena Building Administrator’s Association in voting affirmatively to freeze their pay for 2011-12 to help close a shortfall in the 2011-12 budget.

Because they had taken a pay freeze, Mr. Page said they were looking at a first-year pay increase of 6 percent - 3 percent for last year and 3 percent for this year - in their contract proposal.

At the same time, he said, they were being asked to make health insurance contributions - 5 percent for three years and 7 percent for years four and five. At 5 percent, the annual individual cost would be $372, while a two-person policy would cost $744 and a family would run $966.

“There’s no cap. Anything that goes up, we still pay 5 percent on the increase,” Mr. Page said.

He said three members of the MCSEA are currently making contributions toward their health insurance. The health insurance is paid for those who work 30 hours or more, according to the union president.

The contributions in the new contract would save the district approximately $82,530 in the first year. Those who had been making contributions would also see their amount decrease from 12.5 percent to 5 percent under the terms of the agreement.

However, it’s back to the table for union members and the district to hammer out the terms of the agreement.

“The board has asked us to go back to the table. We plan on holding meeting with them. Their some of our best workers. Hopefully we’ll see if we can get something worked out to benefit both the district and the support staff,” Superintendent Roger B. Clough II.

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