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MailTribune.com
  • Changes hold up EP contract

    District says corrections are technical; union complains of delay
  • Lawyers for the Eagle Point School District have polished up a final draft of a tentative employee contract and passed on to the union a handful of what the district describes as routine technical corrections.
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  • Lawyers for the Eagle Point School District have polished up a final draft of a tentative employee contract and passed on to the union a handful of what the district describes as routine technical corrections.
    But a union representative says the district has moved too slowly and accuses administrators of "gamesmanship."
    District administrators announced last week that they want union consultants to look over several small changes to the contract, mostly formatting and clarity issues, according to Scott Whitman, district business manager.
    Although the Eagle Point School Board voted to ratify the tentative agreement of the district and union during a meeting last month, the contract is not official until both parties agree to any technical changes.
    "This isn't us trying to change anything," said Whitman, adding that the technical review is a standard part of the contract process, and union members have gotten upset for no reason.
    "It's been blown way out of proportion," said Whitman.
    The district and union bargaining team had been in negotiations for more than 14 months when the union declared impasse in March and threatened to strike.
    The contract was finally settled after multiple all-night bargaining sessions during the eight-day strike of more than 250 teachers and classified staff in May.
    When the School Board voted to ratify the tentative agreement last month, the union believed the contract should have been approved at the same time, according to Dave Carrell, president of the Eagle Point Education Association.
    "They sat on (the contract), and I think they needed to act a little quicker," said Carrell, who hadn't yet reviewed the technical changes the district is requesting.
    The union's state consultant, who will review the changes, was out of the office Monday.
    While Carrell said he knew it was a formality to review technical language before ratifying a contract, he believed the district had ample time for this between the end of the strike and the board meeting almost two weeks later.
    "They decided to step up and say they don't agree with the language," said Carrell. "It's very frustrating."
    Carrell said the actions of the district aren't surprising.
    "It's more gamesmanship on their part," said Carrell.
    The delay between the tentative agreement ratification and the signing of the contract is similar to what happened during the last round of negotiations in 2009, according an all-staff email sent out by Superintendent Cynda Rickert last week.
    "This pattern was consistent with previous contract signings," said Rickert in the email. "This time around, the union gave no indication during or after bargaining that it wanted to change this procedure."
    In 2009, the contract wasn't signed until more than six weeks after approving the tentative agreement.
    "If the union wants to pursue this change for future contracts, we will be happy to discuss it," Rickert wrote.
    Whitman said he doesn't expect any major conflict after union leadership has a chance to look at the proposed changes.
    "We're not changing any intent or language, it's just details," said Whitman. "They are corrections to bring us to the language we agreed upon."
    Whitman said the changes include cleaning up the table of contents and revising page numbers.
    Once the two sides have agreed upon any technical changes, they can both sign the contract and put it into effect.
    Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.
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