By Eli Ruiz
LIBERTY The teachers in the Liberty School District have been working without a new contract for the past three years.
On Tuesday evening, at the regularly scheduled Liberty Central School District Board of Education meeting, the board agreed on a resolution to accept a new seven-year deal between the faculty and the district, thereby ending the standoff that began at the expiration of the last contract in June of 2009.
Nearly two weeks before, the Liberty Faculty Association (LFA) held an informational picketing session in front of the Liberty High School/Middle School complex on Buckley Street.
Close to 200 faculty and staff participated in the picketing session with the LFA being joined in the effort by two other Liberty District Unions, the LAMA and the LSEA.
In a June 1 interview, Liberty Faculty Association President Timothy Hamblin, said “The picketing was really just set up to motivate the [LCS Board of Education].”
The new deal also ushers in an entirely new retirement incentive plan which must be taken advantage of in the first year that a faculty member is eligible for retirement under the TRS (Teacher Retirement System). The deal will give Liberty faculty members a higher percentage of their health insurance paid for post-retirement: 85 percent of their individual health-insurance plan or 75 percent of their family plan will be covered by the district.
Liberty School District Superintendent Michael Vanyo, said that the deal was hammered-out during an all night meeting between the two sides, with an agreement being reached on May 24 after a long negotiating session.
“I’m just happy to say that we finally came to terms… we can now move forward,” said a clearly relieved Vanyo.
“I saw them picketing out there, but I also knew we were close to a deal. I signed the papers and left my office… when I looked at my watch it was 2:04 a.m. But hey, it was better than having to come back,” said Vanyo.
He added, “I’m thrilled. I couldn’t be any happier. We went three years with this but it’s a seven-year deal, so we’re looking at labor peace for the next four years going forward.”
More than 90 percent of the faculty union members agreed to the new terms.
Regarding the new contract, Hamblin said, “I think there was compromise on both sides of course.… I am, though, happy with the settlement and I feel it’s a fair and equitable agreement.… It’s good for the teachers, and I think it’s good for everyone.”
Vanyo, though, still has his work cut out for him as deals with the LAMA (which represents full and part-time monitors and aides, and all teaching assistants), LSEA (which represents the custodial and service workers for the district) and the LAA (administrators union) have yet to be hashed out.
Liberty Assistant Monitors and Aides or (LAMA) President Sue Huggler said, “We have been without a successor agreement for 4 full years… on July 1, 2012 we will begin our 5th year [without a new contract], and incidentally most of our members have not seen an increase in pay during this time. Many of our members are raising families on wages qualifying them for public assistance.
“We have asked the district for fair wages and affordable benefits that will help our members provide a decent living for themselves and their families,” continued Huggler. “In addition, LAMA has lost 30 percent of our members to job abolishment. Retirees have not been replaced, and our recall list is extensive at this time.”
“I hope to have, in the July meeting, the LAA come forward… and that deal will be ratified, I hope, next month because we’re very close… we’re ready for both sides to sign the papers with that,” said Vanyo. “With the other two [LAMA and LSEA]… we’re really just waiting to get back to the table.
The next Liberty Central School District board meeting is scheduled for July 3. It remains to be seen if another deal can be struck by then.
The new deal…
The contract agreement between Liberty Central School and the Liberty Faculty Association has the following key provisions:
• Period covers July 1, 2009 up to June 30, 2016
• Annual 11⁄2 percent salary hikes starting this fall (hikes are not retroactive)
• Teachers’ contributions to health care premiums will double, to 10 percent, and on July 1, 2015 will increase to 12 percent.