The head of the Prince George's County Educators Association yesterday said the final contract offer approved by the county school board was unacceptable because it did not allow binding arbitration for grievances as suggested by an outside arbitrator last week.
Union president Paul Pinsky said that the one-year contract offer, with included no provision for a cost-of-living adjustment, was a "slap in the face" and a sign that the board was not interested in bargaining in good faith since it chose to ignore the arbitrator's advice for reaching a compromise. He said the union will meet next Tuesday to decide on its next step.
School board members said that the offer they approved late Thursday night will not be changed and that they decided against the binding arbitration clause in part because of what some said was strong-arm tactics by County Executive Parris Glendening, who wanted them to concede the point in order to settle the contract dispute.
According to one board member who asked not to be named, when the board convened Thursday evening to come up with the final contract offer "nobody really knew what they were going to do for sure on the issue of binding arbitration ."
Glendening spokesman Tim Ayers said yesterday that "Parris put in calls to as many board members as he could, urging them to reach agreement. But he was not getting into the specifics, the emphasis was on the process and getting this matter behind us."
Last week labor arbitrator Seymour Strongin recommended that the eight-month contract dispute be settled by both sides agreeing to a one-year contract that would include no cost-of-living increase but in exchange would provide binding arbitration for grievances.
Because of a tax limitation law known as TRIM the county has been hard-pressed to provide raises for its employes, including the 6,000 teachers. A one-percent increase for school teachers would cost the county $1.5 million.
Strongin also recommended that the teachers' work year be reduced from 189 to 187 days and that the board pay $186 this year to some 2,280 teachers who are not due to receive regular longevity increases this year. The board agreed to these recommendations in its final offer.
Board members opposed the binding arbitration clause in work sessions earlier this week. By Wednesday, when it was the only outstanding block to an agreement, Pinsky asked Glendening to intervene.
According to board members, School Superintendent Edward Feeney and his assistant Edward Felegy, who had been shuttling between the two sides this week and had worked out language for binding arbitration, told the board that failure to accept the arbitrator's compromise could cause teacher unrest.