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RRPS, union battle over tactics, pay

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Only a few weeks before the start of the 2014-15 school year, a battle has flared between Rio Rancho Public Schools and the Rio Rancho School Employees Union.

The district filed a prohibited practice complaint with the district’s labor management relations board earlier this month alleging: the union reneged on tentative agreements and provided regressive proposals; it insisted to impasse on negotiating illegal, permissive subjects of bargaining; it engaged in surface bargaining; and the union’s totality of conduct was evidence of its refusal to negotiate in good faith.

“The district does not file such complaints lightly,” district spokeswoman Kim Vesely said. “This is the first one, at least in recent memory, and may be the first one RRPS has ever filed against RRSEU.”

Last week, the battle raged on.

In a mass email to school employees July 23, Cleveland wrote, “Several employees have asked if they can expect a raise in their July 25 paycheck based on the legislative appropriation, which includes funding for an average 3 percent wage increase for all school employees, with an additional average 3 percent wage increase (for a total of 6 percent) for educational assistants.”

They could not, she said, because “RRPS is unfortunately not legally able at this time to unilaterally impose salary increases to employees covered by the bargaining unit.

“The current negotiated agreement expired on June 30, 2013 — over a year ago,” the email said. “The district must budget in accordance with legislative appropriations but also must comply with the legal requirement to negotiate a pay increase and other terms and conditions of employment. The parties are still in negotiations and dates that the district has offered to RRSEU to continue bargaining were not accepted by the RRSEU and they have not offered any additional dates. The RRSEU has unilaterally broken off talks with the district by refusing to continue negotiations.”

Cleveland said the district was “hopeful that all parties will return to the bargaining table as soon as possible.”

RRSEU President Steve Eisenberg responded with an email to the union’s bargaining unit members, contending Cleveland had written “an untruthful email and purportedly followed it with ‘the facts.’

“The union fought, before the legislative session and every day during for raises for public school employees to be included in the state money provided to school districts. Was Dr. Cleveland there in session fighting alongside us every day? No, she was only there a handful of times.  But, the union was there every day because it matters for your voice to be heard and respected.

“Through this hard work, we were able to secure money to be sent to RRPS for purpose of permitting the union to negotiate fairly for us all. But at the negotiating table, Dr. Cleveland opted to bring in paid consultants and forced unnecessary delay tactics in order to lay claim to more of our hard-fought new allocation that the Legislature designated exclusively for educator raises.”

Eisenberg referred to some raises for other district employees, ranging from 6.1 percent and 10.5 percent, “to compensate (them) for extra work and extra hours they have had to take on with increased testing and teacher evaluations,” Vesely said at the time.

“Seriously, haven’t you been doing more work, too?” Eisenberg said in the email. “Dr. Cleveland has chosen to give a select few favorites a real raise in pay, while the rest of us fight for the scraps. “We are prepared to fight for your well-deserved raises. Join us in demanding that RRPS submit a fair offer and bargain in good faith so we can settle this issue in a matter of days.” “We are not going to dignify the misinformation and out-and-out untruths put forth in the (Eisenberg) letter you received with a detailed response, since to do so would give the comments unwarranted legitimacy,” Vesely said in an email. “It is very unfortunate that the union has resorted to personal attacks, misinformation, innuendo, and unprofessional conduct in this communication with its members and the media.”

The salvos may continue next week: Eisenberg reported his negotiating team is ready to negotiate with the RRPS team Aug. 4-7 and is “prepared to bargain into the night.”

Plans are being developed to have an informational meeting shortly after the beginning of the school year, according to Eisenberg.

“We hope that RRPS will reach an agreement so that we can move forward. Just for your information, we are fighting to use our communication rights. The district is not allowing us to contact you through intercoms, emails or your school mail boxes,” he said.

 

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