MCPS Unions Agree to Forego Wage Increases Next Year

December 4, 2008
Recognizing the dire financial situation facing the county, state and nation, the Montgomery County Public Schools’ employee associations reached a tentative agreement with the Montgomery County Board of Education Wednesday evening, December 3, to forego the cost-of-living wage increases employees were scheduled to receive next year. The tentative agreements are subject to ratification by the union memberships and the Board of Education, which will likely occur in January 2009.

The Board of Education’s bargaining team has been meeting with negotiating teams from the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), SEIU Local 500, the Montgomery County Association of Administrative and Supervisory Personnel (MCAASP), and the Montgomery County Business and Operations Administrators (MCAASP/MCBOA) over the last several weeks because of the severe financial shortfall the school system is facing and the fact that a significant financial recovery is not likely to occur in the near future, making the budget situation all the more uncertain.

“I want to commend the employee associations for negotiating in good faith and making this tremendous sacrifice during these tough times. Our employees are the reason that our students have made such remarkable gains over the last nine years, and we want to make sure they are well compensated for the amazing work they do every day. Unfortunately, the budget situation prevents us from providing a cost-of-living increase this year,” said Nancy Navarro, president of the Board of Education.

The tentative agreements include deferral of cost-of-living increases and other salary related increases originally scheduled to be implemented for Fiscal Year 2010, which begins July 1, 2009. The existing salary schedules for FY 2009 will remain in effect for FY 2010, and employees who are scheduled for step increases will receive them.

The agreements also include the extension of the terms of the existing contracts for an additional four years, through June 2014. The agreements allow for negotiations next year on salaries, non-economic issues, health care cost containment and employee wellness. The current contracts were previously scheduled to expire June 30, 2010. There is continued commitment to a collaborative working relationship while addressing the legitimate needs of the employees in the context of the economic realities.

“I know how difficult it is for employees to forego their wage increases, especially in such uncertain times. But this is the reality we are facing,” said Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “The unions have been exceptional partners in helping us manage the system through many years of prosperity, and now they are working side by side with us as we go through some painful downsizing.”

Ms. Merle Cuttitta, president of SEIU Local 500, stated: “This has been a daunting task for everyone in these challenging times. All three unions of the Montgomery County Public Schools system were committed to avoiding layoffs, protecting health insurance, and minimizing impacts to the instructional program for the students. We all worked hard and remained committed to the fact that we are all in this together.”

Ms. Bonnie Cullison, president of MCEA, stated: “This is going to be a difficult budget for everyone. Employees have done their part. Now we are counting on the County Council and county executive to minimize the harm to our schools and other critical public services.”

Dr. Becky Newman, president of MCAASP and MCAASP/MCBOA, stated: “These are unusual times, and the three employee organizations recognize that we need to take extraordinary steps. We remain committed to working with the school system and the elected officials to maintain stability in these uncertain times and to provide the necessary supports for our employees. Our primary focus is on continuing gains in student achievement and keeping jobs for the employees who have accomplished the student gains.”

Dr. Weast will be presenting his recommended Operating Budget for FY 2010 next week. The tentative agreements allow for these contract settlement cost reductions to be reflected in the superintendent’s recommended budget request.

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