FINDLAY - After voting in favor of a strike, the Findlay City Schools bus drivers approved a tentative contract last night with the district.
No talks were scheduled with the custodial and maintenance workers, who also voted to authorize a strike. Union leaders said they hope a settlement can be reached.
“No one wants a strike,” said Mark Hatch, state spokesman for the Ohio Association of Public School Employees.
Mr. Hatch said highlights of the proposed two-year contract include a 4 percent wage increase in the first year, with a 3.5 percent raise the second year. He also said the health benefits insurance premium, which were at 70 percent for the employer and 30 percent for employees, also will change. The school district has offered to pay 85 percent, with the union members paying 15 percent.
He said the contract, which would be retroactive to July 1, must be approved by the school board, Mr. Hatch said.
OAPSE Local 10 and Local 175, which represents custodial and maintenance workers, voted to approve a strike after voting against the board of education's last settlement offers. The authorization gives leaders the right to issue a strike notice 10 days prior to a walkout.
Both offers were supposed to be final, said Dale Hartford, the state association's field representative, but union officials are planning to reopen negotiations. “We're still trying to work with the board to get some movement so we don't have a work stoppage,” he said.
The board made the offers after federal mediators for both unions failed to reach an agreement Oct. 24.
Findlay Schools Superintendent Robert Lotz could not be reached for comment.
The OAPSE locals, which represent about half of the district's 48 bus drivers and 62 custodial /maintenance workers, have been working without a contract since June 30.
Both unions had hoped to secure a contract similar to the one the teachers' union signed in mid-October. After two rounds of federal mediation, the teachers and board agreed on a 4 percent pay raise this year and a 3.5 percent increase next year.
The custodial/maintenance workers were offered less than the bus drivers, along with a $250 signing bonus in lieu of raises being retroactive, Mr. Hartford said.
Another sticking point with the bus drivers and custodial /maintenance workers is the right to collect union fees from nonunion employees, Mr. Hatch said. Under Ohio law unions have a right to collect fees from employees who opt not to be union members but still benefit from union services. The fees, known as “fair share,” must be negotiated in the contract.
The teachers' contract does not have a “fair share” clause. Instead, the contract offers up to $475 reimbursement in professional dues to those involved in professional education-related organizations.
Benefits and working conditions still remain issues, Mr. Hatch said, declining to give further details.