Penn-Trafford teachers may strike over contract dispute |
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Joe Napsha
Penn-Trafford High School

Penn-Trafford’s 3,800 students could find themselves caught in a teachers strike “sooner rather than later” because of a disputed tentative agreement, the teachers’ union president said.

Union leaders could call for a strike as early as the end of the week, said Shaun Rinier, president of the 250-member Penn-Trafford Education Association. The group held a membership meeting Tuesday.

While members previously authorized the union officers to call a strike, it must give the school district a 48-hour notice before walking off the job, Rinier said.

Penn-Trafford Superintendent Matthew Harris in a statement Wednesday said the school board will meet with union negotiators Monday. The central administration also will work with the board “to generate a new offer,” he said.

“We are looking into having (salary) step movement,” Harris said.

Teachers are working under an extension of a four-year pact that expired June 30. They planned to vote on a six-year tentative agreement Thursday, but that has been canceled, Rinier said.

“We had everything in place to take a vote,” Rinier said.

The union opposes the final draft of the agreement, which would prevent teachers already on the first level of the 17-step salary scale from advancing to another level this school year, Rinier said. The union did not discover that contract language until recently, and Rinier said he could not remember any discussion of that clause during negotiations. If there was discussion, the details were not made clear, Rinier said.

“That’s non-negotiable,” Rinier said. “That’s an issue worth going on strike for.”

Harris said union negotiators this week rejected the same tentative agreement they had accepted Sept. 10. While the proposed agreement did not move teachers on steps 1 through 16 for the first year, it did give teachers a raise from the 2017-18 school year.

The framework for the tentative agreement — the salaries and benefits — would give teachers an average annual raise of about 3 percent in the six years, Rinier said. Teachers on the first step of the salary scale make about $43,000, and those on the 17th step are paid about $90,000, Rinier said.

By the end of the proposed six-year contract, Harris said teachers at the top of the scale with a master’s degree would be paid $104,000 — a $10,500 increase.

To save the district money, Rinier said the union had proposed offering teachers an early retirement incentive for the end of the 2017-18 school year, but that was not accepted.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or [email protected]

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