The unanimously rejected a contractual fact-finding report, although members said they hope to continue bargaining with the district’s union bus drivers, support staff and custodians.
Nearly 50 people attended the Monday morning special meeting and several pleaded with the board to accept the fact-finding report so the union and school district could move forward with a contract.
District Superintendent Brian White Jr. said they plan to continue negotiating with the union and thinks they’re “getting closer” despite rejecting the state mediator’s report.
The 140 workers have been without a contract since 2011 and are concerned their jobs might be outsourced to a private company. The Chartiers Valley Education Support Professionals union spokesman said on Friday that .
Theresa McGill, whose husband, Al, is the high school’s head custodian, said the employees have developed a close relationship with the students and is worried that outside workers might not know the inner-workings of “specialty jobs” in the schools.
“Right now you have a very good staff, a very dedicated group of workers,” McGill said.
She also pointed to work the custodians did two years ago to help evacuate Chartiers Valley Primary School and set up tables on the high school campus so the students could eat lunch.
“The students say, ‘That’s my janitor,’ and get a smile,” McGill said. “They feel comfortable enough to say hi to them and know them outside of the district.”
Michelle Sedlak said she thought the fact finder’s contract proposal was “an affront” to the drivers and custodians, and hoped the union would push back against the district. She said she was concerned about the “precious cargo” riding the buses and did not want a private company taking over the duties.
“They gave you almost every concession and there is nothing over the top (in the contract),” Sedlak said. “These people are what’s important.”
However, the board voted 8-0 to reject the report during the 30-minute meeting. Bridget Kelly did not attend because of a death in her family.
Michael Brungo, who is the school district’s attorney and lead negotiator, said Monday’s decision doesn’t mean the workers will lose their jobs.
“The parties will continue to negotiate and hopefully reach a contract,” Brungo said. “The district did not believe (the fact finder and union proposals) were realistic. Bottom line.”
He said there is no timeline or cutoff date for negotiations and hoped a decision could be reached “in the near future.”
School Director Bob Kearney voted against the fact finding report, but still showed support by clapping after each of the eight residents and workers who spoke during the meeting.
“It’s hard, but it’s about being fiscally responsible and being able to maintain the budget over the next few years,” Kearney said.
Butch Santicola, the spokesman for the union, said he's not sure why the board rejected the fact-finding report, but his group is willing to continue to negotiate.
"We’re not surprised what happened, but we are disappointed,” Santicola said. “We have no idea why they’re going after transportation and bus services."
He backed off previous statements that the union could strike as early as Wednesday morning, but said it still might be an option before the school year is over.
“Maybe this can still be worked out,” Santicola said. “We have no desire to have a strike. It’s an activity we have to do at this point. We may not have a choice. We’ll go back to the bargaining table and see what happens.”