Reflect Now, Bargain Better

Review the Bargaining Process Now, You’ll Have a Head Start Next Fall

By Randy Gordon, NSEA Collective Bargaining Specialist

The relief that comes from completing bargaining for another year or two often leaves members of local association bargaining teams with unresolved issues as the ratification vote, board approval and signature event seemingly signal “the end.”  The events of the past few months melt away and good ideas and strategy considerations are forgotten until the next November 1 start date, if remembered, at all.

Unresolved issues around donated leave, compensation for dual-credit instruction and extra duty are likely to return. It can be helpful to review the proposals, comments and events that created those difficult situations. Among the more common issues:

Dual-Credit Compensation
The topic of how much compensation instructors receive for teaching a dual-credit course arose in several locals both before and during negotiations.  Many negotiators were unaware that such compensation existed or was negotiable.  Historically, agreements have included compensation on a per student basis or a flat amount.  Depending on the college, compensation per class varied, but in some cases included a minimum amount.  For one teacher, the difference between what had been paid to the school district and what was required by the college was close to $1,000 per semester course.

Sick Bank, Donated Leave
Perhaps the most discussed topic each year during negotiations is the current sick bank language or the proposal of a new system.  Sick banks have often been discouraged for a variety of reasons, but leave donation seems to be easier to implement and administer.  The 2020 NSEA University bargaining program this July will include a presentation on this topic.

Extra-Duty Schedules
While the creation of an extra-duty assignment is management prerogative, the compensation for extra duty is negotiable based on the nature and workload of the assignment.  It’s easy to add another basketball assistant and determine that their season and related duties are like that of other assistant basketball coaches.  That compensation is much more difficult to determine for a new program or one with altered responsibilities. The well-intentioned district that adds a coaching position or sponsorship role without first consulting with the bargaining agent may create a disparate stipend that conflicts with the length of season or workload, something that is much more challenging and painful to fix, after the fact.  

Managing Proposals
Managing the exchange of proposals and related discussion is challenging even when both sides are using similar written formats and a proposal/counter-proposal process.  Things get messy once proposal exchange moves from the table and hallway conversations, and when email and texting are allowed. Consider these situations:

  • The team doesn’t receive all the information.  If the administration or board negotiator shares with one person after school, the others on the team aren’t privy to the information and documenting the information shared becomes challenging for your association team.
  • The order of proposals gets clouded.  If the board requests your next proposal via email in advance of the next session, the reply is sometimes viewed as a rejection and may prompt different action on your team’s part.
  • It takes commitment to meet face to face.  In addition to using meeting time to build relationships and evaluate reactions in real time, face to face negotiations require that team members commit to the time and accept the added pressure of getting settled in a timely manner.

It’s understandable when your team wants to walk away from the process, once settled, but there’s significant value in clearly reflecting on the events of a bargaining season.

Documenting comments, unresolved topics and area trends helps prepare for the next bargaining season. Reviewing and understanding the board’s interests helps to guide your team’s research, as does reflecting on whether the settlement meets member needs.If your team is interested in reviewing the past negotiation process, contact your NSEA organizational specialist to set up a meeting and plan to attend the 2020 NSEA University for comparability study training on July 14 or 16, and a full day of bargaining content on July 15.

Reach your organizational specialist at 1-800-742-0047.