ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Rio Rancho Public Schools and the union that represents district employees reached an impasse on Friday and an arbitrator has been called in to help reach a settlement.
District representatives and the Rio Rancho School Employees’ Union began meeting Thursday to iron out their differences, and to approve an agreement that will stipulate the size of employee raises and outline other working conditions. Rio Rancho School Employees’ Union president Steven Eisenberg said negotiations stalled about 1:30 a.m. Friday.
Eisenberg said Friday he does not know how long it will be before a contract is in place and union members see their raises.
The dispute is delaying raises for union members, but it’s not the raises that are holding up negotiations.
The district had filed a “prohibited practice complaint” with the district’s labor board, saying the union had gone back on a tentative agreement by providing a “regressive” proposal and that it earlier refused to set a date to continue negotiations.
One sticking point in the negotiations, according to the complaint, is that the union would like any union employee, even those who are not employed by RRPS, to have access to any district building so they can see bulletin boards, email and the intercom system. For example, Eisenberg is not a district employee.
The district says in its complaint that this would allow people who have not undergone a background check to enter the building and that the union would have access to restricted areas.
The union’s final offer also added a new job classification – certified occupational therapists – to its bargaining unit without previously discussing it with the district.
Superintendent Sue Cleveland sent a mass email to employees July 23 stating union members would not see, on their July 25 paycheck, the 3 percent raise the school board had approved for all employees.
“Any raises are contingent upon resolution of negotiations and/or impasse so, given the current circumstances, RRPS is unfortunately not legally able at this time to unilaterally impose salary increases to employees covered by the bargaining unit,” she wrote. “The District has had to take legal action now to resolve the negotiations process.”
Eisenberg posted a letter to the union website in response to Cleveland’s letter. He accused the superintendent of using delay tactics “to lay claim to more of our hard-fought new allocation that the legislature designated exclusively for educator raises.” He also criticized the district’s decision to give a “select few favorites a real raise in pay, while the rest of us fight for the scraps.”
The district has agreed to give its directors of maintenance, education technology, human resources, and research, assessment, data analysis and accountability an extra bump in pay above the 3 percent. The increased pay is meant to compensate the employees for extra responsibilities and hours they have had to work.