In the most recent contract proposal set forth by the educational assistants' union (EAU), Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) would pay $3.9 million in additional employee salaries within a span of three years.
That is if all unions within the WAPS district settle for the proposal, which is the EAU’s counteroffer to the district’s original offer of $1.56 million in salary increases by the 2015-2016 school year. The union proposal would leave the district $260,000 short this fiscal year, and the total wage increase for three years under the deal would likely require the district to cut its budget elsewhere. More than 70 percent of WAPS' annual general fund expenditures are for employee salaries and benefits; even without wage increases, district officials have estimated WAPS will need to cut $1.35 million between 2016 and 2018.
Currently, formal negotiations sessions have only been held with the EAU. The teachers' union — the largest union in the district — has formally met only once since all contracts expired seven months ago.
At Tuesday’s negotiations meeting, the EAU presented changes to the district’s preliminary proposal, which was a response to the EAU’s original negotiation proposal that asked for a salary increase of 2.75 percent in the first year and a 3.5 percent increase in both the second and third years. The district’s first counteroffer originally featured a one percent increase in salaries for the 2013-2014 school year, followed by a two percent increase in the 2014-2015 school year, and a three percent increase in the 2015-2016 school year, and included an additional 55 cent per hour pay step for educational assistants with the most seniority. The EAU's counteroffer includes a salary increase of two percent in the 2013-2014 school year, an increase of three percent in the 2014-2015 school year, and a three percent increase in the 2015-2016 school year. EAU leaders also supported the 55 cent per hour pay step that was proposed by the district.
Along with the changes to salary increases, the EAU has also asked for the following amendments to the original contract submitted by WAPS:
-Nine sick days, which would ultimately add up to one sick day per month, up from the district’s proposal of six sick days. The EAU’s original proposal asked for 10 sick days per year.
-Three personal days a year, which is one day more than the district’s proposal of two personal days a year. The EAU’s original proposal asked for four personal days a year.
-The removal of contract language that provides the superintendent the ability to add personal days as he/she sees fit.
-One additional paid holiday, which is in contrast to the district’s plan to reduce one paid holiday.
-Ten leave days without the loss of pay for union representatives, which is what teachers' union representatives currently receive.
If the district does not settle contract negotiations in the following months, they still might have to pay the full costs of the raises going back to June, which is when the current contract expired.
“I can’t really answer that question until we settle contract negotiations,” Pat Blaisdell, WAPS director of human resources, said when asked if the raises will be imposed retroactively. “But more often than not they have been [imposed retroactively].”
The district is expected to agree to or alter the EAU’s counteroffer at the next negotiation meeting on Tuesday, January 28.