Anne Arundel County public school teachers and employes, denied cost-of-living increases this year, said this week that they will continue to press the county Board of Education for additional benefits and will seek intervention by the state if the board refuses to negotiate.
Talks with two school employe unions broke off recently after the board's negotiators refused to grant a demand for a shortened school year this year, union representatives said. The representatives said the request would not cost the school system anything and would give some "recognition" to employes in lieu of a raise.
A union representative said the board's negotiator had agreed earlier to noneconomic demands such as allowing employes to appeal all grievances and an extra day for funeral leave. But without agreement on the shortened school year, those cannot be instituted because they were part of a package, he said.
"Since the money for a pay raise wasn't there, we felt a quid pro quo was a shortened work year," said one union official. But school board representatives said they see it as an economic issue that can no longer be negotiated since the year's budget is set.
Paul Manner, chief negotiator for the 1,400 custodial and cafeteria workers and bus drivers, said that if negotiations were not resumed, the unions would ask the Maryland State Board of Education to intervene and recommend a settlement.
Last May, County Executive O. James Lighthizer and the County Council refused to fund a negotiated 4 1/2 percent pay increase for school employes on the grounds that the county could not afford it and that they couldn't raise property taxes any further this year.
In June, the Teachers' Association of Anne Arundel County, representing teachers at 119 schools, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1693, representing custodial workers and bus drivers, asked the school board to renegotiate their contracts. Under state law, school system employes first negotiate with school boards, but if negotiated wage increases are not funded by the county governments the unions return to the school boards to negotiate compromises.
This week Manner asked the Anne Arundel board to reopen negotiations with his union.
"We just can't go on like this," Manner said after the meeting. "There's a lot of angry school board employes who are looking for some gesture, some token from the board that they give a damn."
Manner said he was disappointed with the response he got from board president John C. Wobensmith. Wobensmith said at the meeting that the board "may be too far along" to discuss a shortened school year, but would consider Manner's request.