Ohio teachers, unions agree on more contracts faster

June 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

CLEVELAND — Ohio teachers, other school workers and their unions are reaching more contract deals with school boards at a faster pace than usual under pressure from districts’ budget problems and the state’s new law limiting collective bargaining for public workers.

The Ohio School Boards Association found school boards and employees’ unions so far this year have reached three times as many deals as last year, The Plain Dealer reported Sunday.

Unions are trying to lock in contracts by July 1, before negotiations are restricted by the new law. Its opponents, including teachers, are pushing to get the issue on the ballot and let voters decide whether to overturn it.

Some unions may be making extra concessions to get deals settled before the law takes effect, but the shift in the timing and the content of school workers’ contracts also has been affected by schools’ financial woes, said Andy Jewell, a research consultant for the Ohio Education Association teachers union.

The bargaining law “has an impact, but I’m not sure what the impact would be if budgets were in better shape,” Jewell said.

Many of the deals that have been reached don’t include the typical raises for workers, the newspaper said. About four-fifths of them freeze workers’ base pay for at least a year, and more than one-third don’t include the step increases — the raises based on how much experience or education an employee has — that have become common in teacher contracts.

Renee Fambro, deputy director of labor relations for the school boards association, found at least 54 contracts were signed this year, compared with 17 last spring.

She found noticeable differences between the two, including that 21 districts this year eliminated step increases in base pay for at least a year, a move no district took last year.

Just one of the contracts last year froze base salary for multiple years, but 30 contracts did that this year. In the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, teachers agreed to a three-year pay freeze and are skipping step increases this fall.

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