Union issues 10-day strike notice to Mathews school district

By Jordan Cohen



The union representing the Mathews School District’s 30 nonteaching employees has issued a 10-day strike notice for March 14 over stalemated contract negotiations.

Local 611 of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees represents bus drivers, cafeteria and maintenance workers.

The notice followed the union’s rejection of the board of education’s final offer, said schools Superintendent Lewis Lowery.

“I’m not surprised by it,” Lowery said. “We’ve been negotiating since last May 22, and the issues are all monetary.”

The two sides have been working under the previous contract that expired last June.

Lowery listed the union proposals in a news release Monday. Among them are salary increases of 2 percent for each year of a two-year contract and accumulation of unlimited sick days. Lowery said the current contract limits sick days to 366.

Lowery said the board has countered with a three-year offer that contains no pay raises the first two years and a 0.5 percent increase in 2015-16. The board’s proposal also would require all full-time employees to contribute 10 percent instead of the current 5 percent of the monthly insurance premiums.

Lowery said the only classified employees currently paying the higher rate are those hired after July 1, 2008.

“[The union] has been saying that there are no financial issues associated with this problem, and there are,” Lowery said. He called the board’s final offer “a fair proposal” for a difficult economic time.

But Ron Blatt, OAPSE field representative, accused the board of being inflexible.

“The board has never gotten off any of their proposals,” Blatt said, adding the union is particularly upset about one board proposal that would eliminate payment of overtime for more than eight hours daily and limit it to work that exceeds 40 hours per week.

“This [overtime payment] only costs the district a total of $1,100 for the entire year, which isn’t much for them but means a lot to our people,” Blatt said. “They depend on it.”

Lowery and Blatt said no new talks have been scheduled.

“We’re willing to meet with them, but they have to listen to us, and that’s something they haven’t done,” Blatt said.

The strike notice comes as the board tries to generate voter support for a $24.7 million bond issue for a new kindergarten-through-12th-grade school facility that will be on the May primary ballot.

The superintendent did not speculate on the impact a strike might have on the vote. “I didn’t choose the timing [for a strike notice],” Lowery added.

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