Vermilion teachers file labor complaint

VERMILION Contract talks between the Vermilion Teachers Association and the school board got a littl
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Contract talks between the Vermilion Teachers Association and the school board got a little messier Tuesday when the union filed an unfair labor practice complaint.

In the complaint filed with the State Employment Relations Board, the union contends the school board engaged in "bad-faith bargaining" at its Aug. 4 meeting when it used a PowerPoint presentation to explain why it could not negotiate a multi-year contract.

The presentation also showed that, on a per-hour basis, nine of the 10 top-paid employees in the district are teachers or counselors.

During negotiations the union has voiced concerns that teachers were underpaid in comparison to the district's administrators.

SERB will assign an investigator to check out VTA's claim.

Nearly 100 members of the teacher's union attended the Aug. 4 meeting.

When union members complained the information in the presentation was inaccurate, board president Tim Rini ordered union members not to interrupt.

Union members responded by walking out of the meeting.

Union president John Burrow said the board presented the PowerPoint after the public comment section of the meeting, denying the VTA a chance to respond.

"I got up to refute something, and they chastised me, and that's when (union members) got up and walked out," Burrow said.

Burrow said the presentation was "wrought with mistakes" and a "misrepresentation of the facts."

Burrow said the slide showing the top 10 earners per hour in the district did not take into account that 9 percent of a teacher's salary goes directly into retirement plan, while the district pays for administrators' retirement.

He also said many of the teachers and counselors listed in the top 10 have retired.

"We want a little fairer treatment. We are getting bashed in public and didn't have a chance to give our side," Burrow said.

Starting salaries for Vermilion teachers rank 19th of 22 school districts in Erie and Lorain counties, according to information released by the VTA. No future negotiation sessions are scheduled. "We made the last offer. The ball is in their court," Burrow said.

Neither Vermilion Schools superintendent Phil Pempin nor Rini could be reached for comment. The union is ready to strike Sept. 2, Burrow said.

The union's contract expires Aug. 31. The two sides have been negotiating since May. A session with a federal mediator July 17 proved fruitless, and the union voted in late July to month to issue a 10-day strike notice. The board contends it cannot negotiate a multi-year contract because the district anticipates being $5.1 million in the red by 2010. The Ohio Revised Code requires a district to maintain a positive balance on its books if it signs a multi-year contract with its teachers.

Opening day for Vermilion Schools is Aug. 26.