Elmbrook's New Collective Bargaining? Done in 45 Minutes

With wages capped by CPI the only issue to be bargained post Act 10, the Elmbrook School Board and Elmbrook Education Association reached a tentative agreement during its first meeting Tuesday.

A 45-minute teachers contract bargain.

Welcome to the new world, post Act 10.

That was Elmbrook's experience Tuesday in its first foray in the state's new collective bargaining system that limits most public employee negotiations to one issue: wages capped by a maximum increase of CPI.

Pewaukee Schools recently had the same outcome: a tentative agreement in just 35 minutes, an Elmbrook School District negotiator said.

The Elmbrook Education Association and school district exchanged their initial offers for the 2011-12 school year Tuesday. The Elmbrook School Board's Personnel Committee said it budgeted for a 1.5 percent wage increase for teachers. The EEA sought the maximum CPI increase of 1.64 percent. 

Union attorney Tim Hawks said the higher increase would help attract and retain high quality teachers, noting the Hamilton School District recently approved a 1.64 percent increase.

Difference in initial offers: $32,000

"We believe the budget authority is there, but we're not going to let it become an issue for us," Hawks said.

The difference in offers: about $32,000.

After breaking to caucus separately, the EEA returned to say it was willing to accept the 1.5 percent wage increase. The association said it would hold a ratification vote of its members as soon as possible, given the summer break, and notify the district of the outcome.

If approved, the School Board then would vote on the agreement.

The 1.5 percent increase, totaling about $502,000, would be distributed across the board to the district's approximately 519 full-time equivalent positions.

The 45-minute session was a stark contrast to past bargains that lasted 12 to 18 months or longer. The proposed increase also is a drop from past bargains:  salaries increased 2.4 percent in 2010-11, 1.6 in 2009-10, 3.4 percent in 2008-09 and 4.5 percent in 2007-08.

EEA president Patrick Coffey said the union was willing to accept the 1.5 percent increase because the not subject to bargaining rules, such as benefits, stipends for education advancement, pension, health and other working conditions.

"There's a bigger picture that just the salaries," Coffey said. "This is one piece of a big puzzle."

Coffey and other EEA officers said the association was more concerned with state revenue caps and state aid to districts not keeping up with inflation.

Teacher salaries frozen for past year

The increase would be applied retroactively to July 2011. Elmbrook since their last contract expired June 30, 2011.

Kristi Foy, Elmbrook human resources director and staff counsel, said, "Clearly, Act 10 has drastically reduced the scope of bargaining. Rather than 35 issues on the table, you only have base wages and distribution."

Foy said she believed Elmbrook would not be hurt by not offering the 1.64 percent CPI increase.

"We are still very competitive in our salaries and we haven't had any problems recruiting or hiring top talent with our current salaries," she said.

Tuesday's bargaining was also limited to so-called "base wages" as defined by the state. The increase will be applied to the base which does not include stipends for pursuing masters degrees.

Elmbrook also gives "extra pay" for teachers who coach or advise clubs.

But the long-standing teachers' wage schedule was killed by Act 10, and Elmbrook and all school districts are working to figure out a new way to establish teacher salaries, possibly tied in part to a new evaluation system.

Once the 2011-12 contract is settled, the two sides plan to meet to begin bargaining wages for the 2012-13 school year.


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