Teachers talk contracts with SWCS board

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Their contracts are up and negotiations are underway between the teachers of the South-Western City School District, represented by The South-Western Education Association (SWEA) and the district’s board members.

"SWEA is a bargaining agent that represents teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologists, tutors, nurses and other employees of the South-Western City Schools," said Rolla Beach, who has been the president of SWEA for 12 years.

According to Beach, the contracts expired on June 30, and negotiations for a new one broke down on Aug. 14.

"During that session, both parties agreed to seek the assistance of a federal mediator."

The neutral third-party comes from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which is an independent agency whose mission is to preserve and promote labor-management peace and cooperation.

"George Albu will be the one doing the mediation," Beach said. "He did it two years ago when the last contract was agreed upon."

If one hires, or is appointed a mediator, does that necessarily mean things will get nasty and drawn out? No, says SWCS Board President Jim Lester.

"The mediator really gets the two groups talking. They make sure those talks, if stalled, get moving again."

Mediation is an integral part of the collective bargaining process. Not only do they keep things moving, they also help the parties involved define the problems, convene and adjourn the mediation sessions, and help clarify the issues and differences at hand. So what are the differences that are causing a stalemate between the teachers and the district?

"I cannot comment on what is going on between the bargaining tables at this time," Beach said.

However, he did state that one issue being addressed is the length of the contract.

"They vary from year to year," he said. "The last contract was for two years, and sometimes they are for just one year."

Lester said that since the contract expired on June 30, the board and SWEA have agreed to extend that present contract until a new one is drawn up.

A new mediation session is scheduled for Sept. 24. Both parties agreed it would be all-day talks, and both hopes for the best.

"I’m optimistic, always," Lester said. "We hope to have the contract settled and have the teachers at ease."

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