Impasse declared between school district, two unions

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the teachers and support staff unions have reached an impasse in collective bargaining negotiations.

The Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association have been jointly conducting contract discussions with the school district’s team since February.

The Seattle office of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) will appoint a mediator for continuing negotiations, said school district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff.

A date has not been set for those meetings.

From the school district’s perspective the 2015 negotiations with the associations have focused on teacher and support staff salaries and health care, Erkeneff said. The school district is proposing a one-year contract, she said.

KPEA spokesperson Matt Fischer said one of the items that had a deadend discussion was the school district’s health care proposal, which was revisited last week.

“In bargaining, you are not supposed to go backwards, and to us, that was clearly going backwards,” Fischer said. “It was a worse proposition than before.”

The school district team made the initial request for a mediator April 15, and the support staff association and teachers association agreed later that afternoon that a mediator is needed to move forward, Erkeneff said.

“The school district’s position is that we are far apart in our thinking and methodology at this point in negotiations,” Erkeneff said.

The state’s current fiscal situation is a significant factor in contract development for the school district, she said

Utilizing a mediator is common during negotiations, Erkeneff said.

During mediation meetings, the two teams will gather in separate rooms and the hired mediator will relay information between the two groups to further develop the contracts and reach an agreement.

If an agreement cannot be reached with a mediator, the teams will move into an arbitration process, which is when a third party is hired to act as an advisory judge, also through the mediation and conciliation service, Erkeneff said 

The contracts with the teachers association and the support staff association end on June 30. If negotiated agreements have not been reached by July 1, the current contracts will still apply.

Kelly Sullivan is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.